Venus Sweart disappeared from her parent’s house in Colon Township, Michigan on April 26, 2010. Venus had been living there with her two daughters, then ages 5 and 2, after leaving her husband, Doug Stewart.
Venus had gone outside to the mailbox as she did most mornings. That was the last thing anyone knew about Venus for eight years.
The Vanishing of Venus
Venus’s father, Larry McComb, called 911 when he awoke to find his granddaughters unattended and saw that Venus was just . . . gone.
Police arrived and said her wallet and other personal items were left inside the house. Outside, there were physical signs of a possible scuffle, as there were deep grooves made in the gravel driveway.
Police immediately suspected Venus’s estranged husband, Doug Stewart since the couple had a troubled relationship. Venus and their girls had moved from the couple’s home in Virgina to her parent’s house.
Creating an Alibi
During the investigation, Doug appeared to be in two places—about 800 miles apart—at once. He was seen on his Virginia apartment’s surveillence footage coming and going from his apartment, and his credit cards had been used to make purchases and pay bills not far from his apartment.
Back in Michigan, police found his phone records showed he had left Virginia. Near the McComb’s driveway, police also found a partial fingerprint on a tarp wrapper.
After searching Doug’s truck back in Virginia, police found a receipt for a tarp and shovel, along with Venus’s blood.
Xbox Live. Xbox Lies.
During their investigation, police discovered that Doug was, as some may say, addicted to video games. He would spend hours playing games like Call of Duty and Halo for six to 10 hours a day.
Doug formed friendships with other gamers he met and played with over Xbox Live, an online gaming service. This is how Doug met Richard Spencer, a 20-year-old college student from Bear, Delaware.
Police interviewed Spencer, who gave up the horrific details of Doug’s plan.
Spencer confessed to police that he had been Doug’s alibi. Spencer was about the same height and build as Doug, so Doug had him put on his clothes, and play Doug for a day.
Spencer revealed that it was actually in fact him on the apartment surveillence footage and using Doug’s credit card in Virginia while Doug carried out his murder plot against his estranged wife.
Doug Stewart had actually driven to Michigan twice in April with his plans to kill Venus according to Spencer.
He changed his mind during the first trip and turned around after he had been pulled over en route.
A little over a week later, Doug took his second trip to Michigan.
“He calls me and says, ‘Hey, it’s done,” Spencer recalled. “He said he was able to get her into a headlock and that a drop of blood came from her nose, that it hit the concrete.”
Spencer said he only planned to go along with the plan because Doug had lied to him and said that Venus had left with all his money and their daughters, who she was mentally and physically abusing.
The Trial of Doug Stewart
Police quickly arrested Doug Stewart after hearing Richard Spencer’s confession.
In agreement for a shorter prison sentence if convicted, Spencer testified against Stewart in court in 2011.
The jury reached a guilty verdict after three hours of testimony and hearing Spencer describe being Stewart’s alibi in Virginia. Spencer’s testimony was so convincing that he was sentenced to life in prison, even without Venus’s body being found.
Spencer was given one year in jail and three years probation and released in March 2012.
Police approached Stewart—still in prison—in 2018 with a deal. In exchange for the location of Venus’s body, police would give Stewart whatever he wanted (within reason).
Stewart asked for an Xbox of all things. In October 2018, over eight years after her disappearance, Stewart led authorities to the exact location of Venus’s body where he had wrapped her in a tarp and buried her in a wooded area just miles from her parent’s home.
Venus’s father didn’t live to know what happened to his daughter, but the rest of the family finally received closure.