Lawyer Wants Brazil Police to Look at Career of Slain Executive

Lawyer Wants Brazil Police to Look at Career of Slain Executive

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RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil (AP) -- A lawyer for the family of a former Utah oil executive murdered alongside his wife last week said Tuesday that investigators should examine his career for clues.

Rio de Janeiro police appeared stumped by the brutal murder of the American couple Todd and Michele Staheli, whose children said found the couple bludgeoned in their bedroom.

No one was seen entering the house and there were no signs of forced entry or robbery, which has led police to suggest their assailant must have been someone already inside the home.

That has thrown suspicion on the couple's four children, who range in age from 3-13.

"They must look outside, not inside the house. It is important to look into his past assignments," lawyer Joao Mestieri told reporters. "It could well be that this was a vendetta. This is a crime carried out by a professional, or professionals intent on leaving a message. That's why they were hit in the face."

Staheli, 39, vice president for joint ventures in the Southern Cone gas and power unit of oil giant Shell, was found dead on Nov. 25. His 36-year-old wife died a few days later in a hospital.

In a statement Shell said it had no reason to believe that Staheli's professional activities had any relation to the crime.

The couple's gruesome murder shocked many here even though this is one of the world's most violent cities.

Although the homicide rate hovers around 50 per 100,000 residents, the violence rarely spills into the luxurious high-security condominiums like the one where the Stahelis lived.

Two FBI agents came to Rio to accompany the investigation. They met the state's Security Secretary Anthony Garotinho and talked to the children trying to find clues.

The family lawyer said Staheli worked in countries such as Russia, Ukraine, Saudi Arabia, Libya and Bolivia.

"What did he do in every one of those countries,?" Mestieri asked. "It could have been that he obtained information from another company, in other country, in another place. Maybe that explains why it could be a vendetta."

A reconstruction of the murder was scheduled for Wednesday.

The lawyer said he opposed to the children being involved directly in the reconstruction because it would require them to return to the scene of the crime.

"They are victims and there is no valid reason for them to go through all this again," he said.

Todd Staheli was a native of Spanish Fork, Utah, and his wife was from Logan, Utah.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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