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The murder of Todd Staheli in Brazil in 2003 – an appeal from a true-crime author

If you worked for Shell in the 1990s or early 2000s, and have any information to share on Todd Staheli and his career – in Brazil, Ukraine, London, Saudi Arabia, Houston and elsewhere – please contact me at [email protected]. I will treat your messages in the strictest confidence.

The murder of Todd Staheli in Brazil in 2003 – an appeal from a true-crime author

By Nick Foster

In late July 2003, Todd Staheli, (39), a high-flying oil executive from Salt Lake City, Utah, took up a posting with Shell Oil in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Todd had previously worked for Shell in Ukraine and Saudi Arabia, having made a name for himself for being the go-to man when problems appeared in Shell’s overseas joint ventures (JVs). In Brazil, Todd’s JV partner was the Brazilian oil giant Petrobras, majority-owned by the Brazilian state. Shell and Petrobras were building a gas pipeline, known as Transredes, from Bolivia to southern Brazil.

Todd and his wife, Michelle, 36 – and their four young children, aged from three to thirteen – set up home in a detached house in Porto dos Cabritos, an upscale condominium in a Rio suburb. The family’s outwardly happy expat life came to a brutal end in the early hours of Sunday, November 30th, 2003. The couple’s son, Logan, then 10, heard the constant beeping of his parents’ alarm clock, and went to their bedroom to investigate. He found Todd bludgeoned to death, lying in bed in a pool of blood. Michelle died of her injuries several days later.

I’m a British true-crime author and this case fascinates me. I’ve investigated it on the ground in Brazil and I believe it’s probably solvable. I’ve set up a website with some of my findings to date at www.stahelimurders.com.

The double-murder of the American oilman and his wife in what was, supposedly, a secure condominium, was a headache for the Brazilian authorities. There was no evidence of forced entry and the alarm in the Stahelis’ house did not go off. How the culprits entered the compound was a mystery, as it was guarded 24/7. In one report, the security guards were not around at the time of the killings. And if it was a robbery, why was nothing stolen? Why, for instance, was Todd’s gold Rolex watch left undisturbed on his nightstand?

But two things did disappear that night. The first was the oilman’s PalmPilot, the height of technology at the time, containing draft reports on his work with Petrobras and Shell. The second was the murder weapon. Neither could be found.

A handyman working at Porto dos Cabritos confessed to killing Todd and Michelle, and was subsequently convicted. But I believe he was the fall guy. Everything about the murder suggests a hit. But who hired the killer or killers – and why?

If you worked for Shell in the 1990s or early 2000s, and have any information to share on Todd Staheli and his career – in Brazil, Ukraine, London, Saudi Arabia, Houston and elsewhere – please contact me at [email protected]. I will treat your messages in the strictest confidence. (I can also supply a Signal number.) I know, for instance, that Todd’s posting in Rio de Janeiro was offered to at least one other executive, who turned it down, privately citing concerns about Petrobras. Please get in touch. If you are the gentleman who preceded Todd at Shell’s Rio office, write to me. I am very keen to talk with you. If you took on Todd’s Brazilian responsibilities after his murder, also please contact me. If you saw any of Todd’s memos from Brazil to his bosses at Shell, please reach out.

In all cases, you can reach me at [email protected].

If your work in the oil and gas industry brought you into contact with the Transredes gas pipeline – through one of the other oil majors with a share of Transredes – I would also be very keen to hear from you.

Todd and Michelle’s children have suffered terribly for much of their lives. They have my total sympathy, and deserve to know the truth about who was behind their parents’ murder. I have an open mind about the case; I have also lived and worked in Brazil and speak Portuguese. Please reach out to me if you have any information that could be of help.

www.stahelimurders.com

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