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Cops: Doc’s ex-partner hired ‘hit man’

Citizen Staff Writer



A Tucson doctor and a man who police say is a hit man are in the Pima County Jail in connection with the grisly slaying of Dr. David Brian Stidham, a pediatric ophthalmologist stabbed outside his office here Oct. 5.

Dr. Bradley Schwartz, Stidham’s former partner, was arrested last night at his home, near Camp Lowell and Swan roads. Alleged hit man Ronald Bruce Bigger, 38, was arrested in Marana. Therese Morelos, 39, was arrested with Bigger on misdemeanor traffic warrants.

“She’s not been arrested in the (Stidham) case yet,” Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik said.

Schwartz was arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, and Bigger is being held on suspicion of first-degree murder. Bail will be set for the two today.

Stidham was found dead at his office complex, near First Avenue and River Road, after lecturing University of Arizona medical residents. His Lexus coupe was later found abandoned at a midtown apartment complex.

Authorities wouldn’t say last night how much they believe Schwartz paid Bigger. Stidham’s slaying had been planned for “some time,” Dupnik said.

Bigger, who was originally arrested on a minor felony warrant from Indiana, was acquainted with Schwartz, said Detective Sgt. Brad Foust, who leads the homicide unit.

“We’ve had tremendous cooperation from the community, especially from the medical community,” said Dupnik, mentioning the department received numerous tips from 88-CRIME.

He said 25 detectives were working on the case around the clock.

The Harvard-educated Stidham, who had a wife and two children, was stabbed 17 times, mostly likely in his car, and had a fractured skull, Dupnik said.

Authorities wouldn’t speculate on a motive last night.

“Schwartz, his character is such that the medical community suspected him from the very first,” Dupnik said, adding that his own doctor asked why Schwartz hadn’t been arrested.

Wearing blue surgical scrubs, Schwartz was led by authorities from an unmarked car into Pima County Sheriff’s Department headquarters, 1750 E. Benson Highway. He did not speak.

Schwartz was accused in 2000 of writing prescriptions for more than 4,200 Vicodin and Ritalin pills over an 18-month period and having the patients return the drugs to him.

A 77-count indictment included charges of conspiracy, fraudulently obtaining controlled substances and illegal distribution of controlled substances.

On Nov. 13, 2003, the Arizona Medical Board put him on five years’ professional probation for unprofessional conduct.

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