BOSTON, JAN. 4 -- With a leap from a bridge, Charles Stuart ended his life today, hours after police began closing in on him as a suspect in the car shootings last October that killed his pregnant wife, left him with a stomach wound and led to the death of their son, born prematurely soon after the incident.

The bizarre case had gripped Boston and brought the city unwelcome notoriety for racial tension after Stuart told police that a black man had forced his way into the white couple's car at night and shot them during a robbery attempt.

Stuart, 29, manager of a fashionable fur boutique, jumped from the Tobin Bridge into Boston Harbor, police said. He left a handwritten note indicating that "he couldn't handle the allegations," according to District Attorney Newman Flanagan.

In a series of sensational disclosures, authorities said Stuart was a suspect -- and knew it -- in the point-blank shooting of his wife, Carol, 30, and is thought to have shot himself in what appears to have been an elaborate hoax.

Stuart's motive for shooting his wife remains a mystery, but a source within an insurance company said he recently collected $83,000 from a $100,000 policy on his wife, one of two the couple had taken out two weeks before the shooting, the Boston Globe reported last night.

{Police said Matthew Stuart, 23, said his brother had planned and executed the robbery and shooting of Carol Stuart, shot himself to cover up the crime and then tossed her handbag, containing a snub-nosed revolver believed to have been used in the shootings, from the window of his car at a prearranged meeting to his brother, the Globe reported.

{Matthew Stuart's attorney, John J. Perenyi, told the Globe that Matthew has told police he disposed of the gun and Carol Stuart's personal belongings, except for her engagement ring, without knowing what they were. Perenyi said his client is not a suspect as a participant or an accessory to the shootings.}

At two news conferences here, authorities refused to comment on a possible motive, declining to answer questions about life insurance, drugs, marital difficulties or any of many other theories swirling around the case. A grand jury continues to investigate.

But the new details indicate the crime, which the highly competitive Globe and Boston Herald gave front-page treatment for weeks, was one family's calamity, not an accurate reflection of conditions on the streets of Boston.

Flanagan said a black man from Boston, William Bennett, widely identified in the news media as a suspect in the Stuart case, is no longer under suspicion.

Bennett, 39, who has been jailed since being picked up on an unrelated armed robbery charge Nov. 11, may move for reduction of bail, set at $50,000 by a judge aware that police suspected Bennett in the Stuart case, his attorney said.

Boston Mayor Raymond Flynn, who joined Flanagan and police officials at a dramatic noon news conference, said he his city has been the victim of a "bizarre" hoax that smeared its reputation in national news accounts of the shootings.

Investigators said Stuart was being deliberately misleading Oct. 23 when he called police from his car phone and reported that his wife had been shot in the head and that he was wounded in the stomach. In a dramatic 10-minute audiotape of his call to police, Stuart could be heard saying, "Oh, man, it hurts, and my wife has stopped gurgling. She's stopped breathing."

Later, while recovering in the hospital, Stuart told police that a black man wearing a jogging suit had entered their car while the Stuarts were driving home from a birth class at Brigham and Women's Hospital.

Stuart and his wife, a lawyer, lived in suburban Reading and had been married for four years. They were described as a happy young couple eagerly anticipating the birth of their first child around Christmas.

Instead, the baby was delivered by Caesarean section and died 17 days later because of oxygen deprivation in the hours between the shooting of his mother and his birth. Prosecutors said they consider his death a separate homicide.

The shootings touched off an intensive police crackdown in Mission Hill, a racially mixed neighborhood near the city's medical complex. Some black leaders protested that their community was unfairly placed under suspicion and complained that police were routinely stopping and frisking young black men.

At Carol Stuart's funeral, a statement written by Charles Stuart in the hospital was read aloud: "For us to truly believe, we must know that {God's} will was done and that there was some right in this meanest of acts. In our souls, we must forgive this sinner because He would, too."

Officials suggested today that they had suspected Stuart for some time, but it was not clear how long he had known that they did. Hospitalized for more than a month after the incident, Stuart never spoke with reporters. His accounts of the shootings had been relayed by police.

Flanagan did not explain why Bennett repeatedly had been identified as a suspect in the case. Last week, Stuart viewed Bennett in an eight-man lineup arranged by Boston police. He reportedly said Bennett looked "most like" his attacker.

The mayor, who called the shooting a "senseless, ruthless" tragedy in October and promised an all-out investigation, stressed today that no one other than Stuart had blamed a black man for the attack.

Flynn said it would have been "a violation of law" and "a big mistake" for police or prosecutors to discuss the case with reporters while it was under investigation.

"I'd say there've been many victims," he said, referring to the Mission Hill neighborhood, Boston's black community and the entire city. "The victims have also been all the decent people of Boston who've been very troubled by this tragic situation.

"There's a terrible further tragedy. An innocent person could have been convicted. Maybe what really happened is God put his hand on the city of Boston to free an innocent man."

At a late-afternoon news conference, Flanagan read a statement revealing that on Wednesday afternoon one of Stuart's two brothers had offered information about the case.

{Perenyi said Matthew Stuart implicated his brother after Charles Stuart had identified Bennett during a lineup of suspects last week, the Globe reported.

{Perenyi said Charles Stuart had arranged to have Matthew meet him at the intersection where the shootings occurred. When Matthew arrived , Charles Stuart tossed a Gucci bag into Matthew's car, Perenyi said. According to Matthew, Charles Stuart told him to "take this to Revere."

{Perenyi said Matthew did not look inside the bag until he returned to Revere. When he learned of the shooting several hours later, Matthew said, he threw the gun in the Pines River but kept an engagement ring, the Globe reported.

{The bag, minus the revolver, was found today in a search of the river, Associated Press reported.

{Matthew Stuart "was really at a loss to give me a motive," Perenyi said. "He didn't think his brother was into gambling, drinking or other women."}

Flanagan said several Stuart family members and close friends gave statements to police Wednesday evening. "These statements clearly exculpated Willie Bennett and clearly inculpated Charles Stuart in the murder of his wife and infant son."

At 6:50 a.m., Chelsea police reported an abandoned black car on the Tobin Bridge over the Mystic River.

A body was spotted 300 feet below and, six hours later, was pulled from the water. In identifying the body as that of Charles Stuart, the medical examiner said the abdomen still contained the bullet that authorities think that he fired into himself.