The Murder of Brian Stidham

On October 5, 2004 in the parking lot of a medical complex in Catalina Foothills Arizona the body of pediatric ophthalmologist, Brian Stidham was found. An autopsy would reveal that he had been stabbed approximately fifteen times and suffered a skull fracture. His car would be found about six miles away from the crime scene. Very quickly a fellow ophthalmologist, Bradley Schwartz was under suspicion.

Brian Stidham and his wife, Daphne moved to the Tucson area sometime in 2001. It was then that he started working with Bradley Schwartz in his practice. However, it appears he was not officially brought on board until about November. The following month the DEA raided the practice and several months later Bradley Schwartz was indicted on seventy-seven counts of illegally obtaining prescription medications by a federal grand jury. It appears that Schwartz could not really be surprised at the raid though since he was romantically involved with Lourdes Lopez, a lawyer who worked with the Pima County District Attorney's Office. The DEA had talked to her and she was instructed not to inform him but that did not stop her. Brian Stidham remained working with Schwartz up until he was indicted in September of 2002, although apparently not happily. It was then that he informed Schwartz, with a 30 day notice that he was leaving his practice. Stidham made plans to start a new practice of his own on the other side of town.

For his part Schwartz was initially put on probation by the medical board and later his license were suspended for period of time. Many of his patients followed Brian Stidham to his new practice and it appears that most remained with him even when Schwartz was allowed to practice again. At this point Schwartz became convinced it seemed that Stidham was deliberately “stealing” his patients. In the mean time he still had his legal issues to deal with. He was apparently out on bond and still seeing Lopez. His initial charges had stemmed from the fact that he had become addicted to Vicodin in 2000 after experiencing what was described as chronic back and jaw pain. He would later become addicted to Ritalin. Over a period of time he had written prescriptions for drugs in both Lopez' name and the name of his office manager. The women filled the prescriptions but then gave the medication to Schwartz.

By late 2003 it seems Schwartz planned to plead guilty but would later change his mind. The medical board put him on five years probation and forbade him from writing narcotic prescriptions. But it also seems that he and Schwartz were having issues too. In June of 2003 they had been engaged in a domestic violence situation and the courts ruled an amended release to his condition to include not having contact with Lopez. Apparently neither of them listened however because by the time the courts lifted this restriction it was common knowledge they had continued contact and were even engaged to be married. Whether this occurred is unknown. In fact, I could not fully determine what even happened in his legal issues aside from the fact that he did enter rehab and was able to return to his practice.

Then came the murder of Brian Stidham on October 5, 2004. Ten days later authorities arrested Bradley Schwartz and a man by the name of Ronald Bigger for the murder. They were charged with first degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder. Authorities would come to believe that Schwartz had paid Bigger $10,000 to kill Stidham for him.

At the time of the murder Schwartz was having dinner at a restaurant with a woman named Lisa Goldberg. Not long after the murder Bigger showed up at the restaurant and Schwartz introduced him to her as “Bruce.” The day after the murder Goldberg ws suspicious and contacted the authorities. Apparently after leaving the restaurant Schwartz took Bigger to an ATM where cash was withdrawn, and then took him to a hotel where Schwartz paid. Authorities would look at phone records and see that there were several calls between the two on the day of the murder but the most significant call was made to Schwartz, just after the murder, from a pay phone at a Denny's restaurant just across the street from the medical complex. DNA result would connect Bigger to the radio knob in Stidham's vehicle.

Bradley Schwartz went on trial in March of 2006. The defense would attempt to not allow any information in the trial that related to Lourdes Lopez who had been working at the district attorney's office as an “attorney/client” relationship. She would be disbarred by the Arizona Supreme Court in 2007. Several witnesses for the prosecution testified that Schwartz had a severe hatred for Stidham and often make remarks pertaining to this. As I stated earlier the prosecution claimed that Schwartz gave Bigger $10,000 and while the defense said this was not true from my research it indicated that they had no answer to where this $10,000 went to. After a two month trial and five days of deliberations, Schwartz was convicted on May 2, 2006. He was sentenced to a term of twenty-five years to life.

The following year Ronald Bigger went to trial. The defense claimed he was innocent and attempted to make the jury believe that it was Schwartz who had committed the murder. Despite failing in that effort it does seem the defense was able to portray Schwartz as a manipulative person who had coerced Bigger to commit the crime. He too was ultimately convicted and he was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Daphne Stidham filed two lawsuits. One was against the medical complex in which her husband was shot. The lawsuit claimed that the “conditions aided the killer” although in fairness I am unsure what exactly that was to mean. That case was settled out of court for apparently an undisclosed amount. The second lawsuit was against Pima County and the district attorney's office, specifically naming three people, including Lopez. The claim was that the relationship between Lopez and Schwartz had prevented fairness in preventing the murder. Eventually only one of the three people were left (Lopez's boss) the county settled with her for $2.29 M in 2007.

Bigger filed an appeal and it was denied in 2011. The Department of Correction in Arizona has a very detailed site when it comes to information on inmates. It shows not just any disciplinary actions that have been taken but also in what area of the prison the inmate works. When I checked Bigger had obtained four counts or “disrupt/out of place,” four disorderly conduct counts, and one count each for “attempting to commit a Class A felony,” harassment and disobeying orders. It stated that he is currently working in the prison as a carpenter with a previous job as a painter.

Schwartz seems to have had it a bit rougher than Bigger in prison. In 2009 he filed a claim stating he had been attacked numerous times by inmates and received injuries. He attempted to sue the state for $750,000. It appears he lost this. However another inmate was convicted of aggravated assault against him in an attack that apparently cost Bradley Schwartz the use of one of his eyes. For his part he has received disciplinary action twice for disrespecting staff, twice for “theft/ possession of stolen property,” and one count each of disorderly conduct, possession of contraband, fighting and possession of a manufactured weapon. He is currently listed as working as a “peer facilitator.” While the DOC did not have a notice of when he is eligible for parole another site indicated that wold be in the year 2029.


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