Dr. Bradley Schwartz was, by all accounts, a talented and accomplished pediatric ophthalmologist with a thriving practice in Tucson, Ariz. He had everything going for him: family, friends and success.
All the more reason why the community was shocked when this respected doctor was arrested for the murder of his medical partner, Dr. Brian Stidham, after Stidham left the practice, taking patients with him.
The murder Schwartz committed -- born out of a sense of betrayal -- was, pure and simple, a revenge killing.
"The anger was just overwhelming, and I think Brad was fixated that Brian was the cause of the downfall," said Lourdes Lopez, Schwartz' former fiancee.
Schwartz' former girlfriend Rachel Atkinson, concurred. "I know that he really hated him. And I guess he was going to go to any length that he could to get his patients back, to get his life back."
Tuscon defense attorney Grey Kuykendall said that "most people think about it and get over it, [but] he not only had the revenge motivation but he went through with it."
Expanding the Practice
Lopez met Schwartz when she brought her foster daughter in for surgery. Lopez says that Schwartz was charming, that he swept her off her feet -- she was impressed that he was a doctor. "I got to see him interact with his children, [who] he was wonderful with," she said.
Shortly after the two began dating, Schwartz brought in Stidham to expand his practice. Stidham was Harvard trained, a husband and father of two. He had all of the qualities Schwartz was seeking in a partner -- he was well regarded at his job and patients loved him.
The plan was for Stidham to eventually take over the pediatric ophthalmology aspect of the business, leaving Schwartz free to open up another office on the north side of town. But no one involved in all of these plans knew that Schwartz was addicted to drugs.
'He Had a Real Problem'
Lopez says that Schwartz' drug problem was completely out of control. "When I met him he had already been abusing Vicodin," she said. "Three thousand pills over a period of several months. So, he had a real problem."
In December 2001, DEA agents raided Schwartz' office, and his brilliant career suddenly began to crumble. Nine months later, he was indicted, and his license to practice medicine was suspended. When Schwartz was sentenced to rehab, Lopez says he was shocked. "You know, I think he saw his whole life just, right before his eyes, his whole practice, you know, he was going to lose it."
After Schwartz went to rebab, Stidham, on the advice of friends and colleagues, moved out and opened his own practice. Most of Schwarz and Stidham's patients followed him, and Lopez said Schwartz was upset, having expected that his partner would cover for him until he could return to their joint practice.
Lopez said Schwartz was furious about Stidham's departure. "He couldn't believe that Brian would leave him at that moment, when he was most vulnerable."
Schwartz began to plot against his former partner in a variety of ways, sometimes going as far as enlisting others to try to destroy Stidham's reputation. Atkinson remembers that Schwartz asked her to accuse Stidham of touching her inappropriately during an examination of her young son. She refused.
Greg Kuykendall, a Tucson defense attorney, said that Schwartz was very vocal about telling people that he intended to get even with Stidham. "Dr. Schwartz went around town telling every Tom, Dick and Harry that he intended to have Dr. Stidham killed. That he hated Dr. Stidham and wanted him dead."
Lopez said she heard Schwartz say that "he was going to get him."
On Oct. 5, 2004, sometime between 7:30 and 10:30 p.m, Stidham was brutally murdered -- stabbed 15 times -- in the parking lot outside his office. He was 37 years old.
When Lopez heard about the murder on the news, she went to the police. She reported that Schwartz repeatedly told her he was going to kill Stidham.
As the evidence mounted, police closed in, arresting Schwartz for allegedly hiring a hit man, who was reportedly paid $10,000 to kill Stidham.
The prosecution's theory in the case was that this was a crime of revenge, motivated by Schwartz's anger at Stidham for stealing his practice and from his perspective, ruining his life.
The trial lasted almost two months. It took the jury five days to convict Schwartz of conspiracy to commit murder. He was sentenced to life in prison, with the possibility of parole after 25 years.
'It's a Very Hard Thing to Ever Accept'
Lopez said it was all about revenge. "I couldn't understand any other reason why he would want to hurt Brian. Brian was a good man. Brian was a father, he was a doctor, had patients who loved him, who needed him. It was all about revenge."
Schwartz' desire to settle a score with his medical partner left a deep wound in their tight-knit community. Stidham's friends and colleagues remain scarred by the murder -- close friend Dr. Steven Cohen said that Stidham was a special person.
"I think about Brian a lot. I think about what a special person he was, how fortunate I was to have him in my life. It's a shame that we're not going to grow old together and have our families grow old the same way. It's a very hard thing to ever accept. And I felt like I had lost a part of myself. I don't think anybody of a normal mind would ever consider murdering somebody. So I think Dr. Schwartz is going to pay for his crimes, not only here but for eternity. I think he's an evil person."
Those who knew him best still worry that Schwartz may be capable of exacting even more revenge. Atkinson said that she's still scared, just because "he's behind bars, that don't mean he's not going to get out some day and have revenge."