SAN DIEGO – An Oct. 21 trial date has been confirmed for Richard Tuite, whose conviction in the killing of 12-year-old Stephanie Crowe was reversed by a federal appeals court. Tuite faces a retrial on a charge of voluntary manslaughter. Pretrial motions are scheduled for July 19.
Tuite, 43, had been serving a 17-year prison sentence when the appeals court reversed his 2004 manslaughter conviction, ruling the trial was unfair because a judge limited cross-examination of a prosecution witness.
Tuite is accused in the January 1998 stabbing death of Stephanie Crowe. The girl’s then-14-year-old brother, Michael, and two of his then-15-year-old friends, Joshua Treadway and Aaron Houser, were initially suspected in the killing, and each was charged with murder. The District Attorney’s Office later dropped all charges against the boys just before trial when Stephanie’s blood was found on a shirt Tuite was wearing the night of the killing. A judge ruled so-called confessions from the boys were coerced under harsh interrogation tactics by Escondido police and an assisting Oceanside police officer.
The families of all three boys later won a federal civil rights lawsuit against the cities of Escondido and Oceanside on grounds they were denied their rights against self-incrimination and false arrest. Last fall, the Crowe family settled a suit for $7.25 million and earlier this year, a judge officially declared the boys factually innocent of the crime.
Tuite, a schizophrenic drifter, was known to frequent the area around the Crowe home. Escondido police detained Tuite in the neighborhood and collected his clothes shortly after the killing but let him go free as investigators focused their attention on the boys. Authorities later theorized that Tuite attacked Stephanie Crowe because she resembled a girl with whom Tuite was obsessed.