Legal Briefs

Unexpected Discovery and Disclosure in the Stidham Murder


Dr. Mark Austein asks: "Where's my 'Slade, yo?"

Austein sold a 2002 Cadillac Escalade to Dr. Brad Schwartz and, according to a motion filed in Superior Court on May 12, and was "paid very little." He wants his ride back. Now.

"This automobile is currently stored in an open air lot, exposed to the harsh elements of Arizona climate, and will suffer steady deterioration with the passage of time," wrote David Basham, Austein's lawyer. "The automobile will quickly lose all practical and economic value."

Police seized the ivory Escalade on Oct. 15, when Schwartz and Ronald Bruce Bigger were arrested for the Oct. 5 murder of Dr. David Brian Stidham, the gifted young ophthalmologist Schwartz recruited for his Tucson practice in 1999.

Almost everyone is down with the quick release of the Caddy, Basham told Judge Nanette Warner, who is presiding over the totality of the Schwartz-Bigger proceedings. The one exception: Bigger's lawyer, Richard Lougee.

But Lougee "needs only a reasonable amount of time to review disclosure and assess the evidentiary value of this automobile," Basham wrote.

You'd think Austein could have simply asked Schwartz: "Dude, where's my car?" Austein's job isn't far from Schwartz's crib at the Pima County Jail. Austein, an old hand in the county health system, is the director of medical services at the jail, where Schwartz is being held on a $2 million bond. Bigger's being held on a $1.5 million bond.

Schwartz and Bigger face first-degree murder charges. Authorities say Schwartz hired Bigger to kill Stidham.

The Escalade is one pimped-out ride, according to Lourdes Lopez, the Tucson lawyer who was Schwartz's lover and co-conspirator in a 2002 federal drug case. She told sheriff's detectives on Oct. 28 that she drafted the purchase note.

"Yeah, I did, I did a quick search online, you know, on, you know how you can get a car-facts history ... just to make sure it wasn't involved in any ... kind of shit and I, think there was," Lopez said in that interview. "I don't know if there was ever something, that, I was like what the heck is that all about? I always thought somebody was transporting illegal aliens in it or drugs."

"... I mean," Lopez added, "I don't know, I guess I'm judging. I, I don't know. Who needs a car, like, who needs two, two TVs and a headrest and leather and phones, and all? I guess it's just a Cadillac ... and the grille is all custom made and it had all this custom stuff ...."

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