Slain Couple's Children Must Remain in Brazil for Now

Slain Couple's Children Must Remain in Brazil for Now

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RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil (AP) -- The children of a slain American couple must remain in Brazil until the investigation into their parents' murder is complete, officials said.

Police are investigating the murders of Todd and Michele Staheli, both formerly from Utah, who were found bludgeoned in their bedroom in a high security condominium on Rio's west side on Nov. 30.

Staheli, 39, a Shell Oil executive, died that day, while his 36-year-old wife died Thursday at a hospital from her wounds. The couple has four children ranging in ages from 3 to 13.

"The crime is very strange and very complex," state security secretary Anthony Garotinho said Saturday. "Nobody could have entered the house unless there was a mechanical failure or someone helped from inside the house."

Garotinho insisted he wasn't accusing anybody, but said the police had to be allowed to complete their investigation.

A judge heard statements Friday from the couple's 10-year-old son and 13-year-old daughter and later ordered them to remain in the country. The children are staying with relatives who arrived in Brazil after the killings.

Garotinho said investigators now believed the killings had been carried out with a sharp object like an ax.

Police found a small ax, antique in appearance, in the girl's room but forensics exams have found no evidence suggesting it was used in the crime.

The couple moved to the condominium near a beach in Rio in September, following Staheli's appointment to head a Shell Oil unit dealing with the development of natural gas resources.

Police have ruled out robbery as a motive, saying a gold Rolex watch and a box full of jewelry were found untouched. There was no sign of forced entry.

Two FBI agents have been assigned to observe the probe. U.S. Consulate spokeswoman Melissa Ford said the agents will accompany Brazilian police but will not investigate the case.

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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