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Stidham wrongful death suit may be settled vs. county

Citizen Staff Writer



A wrongful death lawsuit against the county and Pima County Attorney Barbara LaWall in the 2004 murder of Dr. Brian Stidham has been settled, court records indicate.

On Friday, attorneys for Stidham’s widow, Daphne Stidham, filed papers setting up a conservatorship for the Stidhams’ children, Alexandre, 6, and Catherine Stidham, 3.

Pima County Superior Court Judge Kyle Bryson ordered a filing of a “petition for approval of settlement” and the appointment of a conservator for the children. Arizona law allows for a court-appointed conservator to oversee the finances of and make financial decisions for minors.

The order doesn’t include a settlement amount. The lawsuit itself doesn’t specify damages, but a claim filed as a precursor to the lawsuit sought $20 million.

Peter Limpiris, one of Daphne Stidham’s attorneys, said on Tuesday he couldn’t comment on the conservatorship filing or any settlement offer.

The order states that a coming hearing on the conservatorship will be closed to the public and all future filings will be sealed.

Deputy County Attorney Thomas Dugal, who represents the county and LaWall in the lawsuit, was not immediately available to comment.

County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry did not immediately return a phone call from the Tucson Citizen.

The lawsuit was not on Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors agenda.

Former county prosecutors Paul Skitzki and Lourdes Lopez were also named in Daphne Stidham’s lawsuit. It is not known whether any potential settlement includes them.

The lawsuit was based on Lopez’s statements that she told Skitzki before Brian Stidham’s October 2004 stabbing death that his former employer, Dr. Bradley Alan Schwartz, had threatened Stidham’s life. Lopez was not a prosecutor at the time, but Skitzki was.

Had Lopez, who is Schwartz’s ex-fiancee, and Skitzki gone to authorities, the lawsuit said, Stidham might be alive. LaWall testified as such during a 2005 hearing Skitzki requested on his dismissal.

LaWall was sued because of her position as county attorney.

Schwartz, 42, was convicted last year of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder and is serving a life sentence.

Ronald Bruce Bigger, 41, was convicted in May of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit first-degree murder and received two life sentences last week.

Prosecutors said Schwartz held such animosity toward Stidham for abandoning his practice that he hired Bigger to kill him.

Lopez, who is a private lawyer, and Skitzki, who is an assistant county public defender, could not be reached for comment.

Daphne Stidham recently reached a settlement with the owners of the medical plaza where her husband was found slain. Terms were undisclosed.

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