SAN DIEGO – The man exonerated in the 1998 stabbing death of 12-year-old Stephanie Crowe remained in jail nearly a week after his manslaughter acquittal, but his freedom could be days away.
Richard Tuite, 44, served more than nine years in prison for Crowe’s murder and is waiting for a few administrative hurdles to be figured out before walking out of jail a free man.
“[The delay is]really just a paper modification process,” Tuite’s defense attorney Brad Patton said of the paperwork being processed by the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
Tuite was resentenced Tuesday on two other charges – including trying to escape prison in 2004. The judge gave him credit for time served. The Department of Corrections has five days to decide if Tuite will be placed on parole.
The extra few days in custody will give his family time to prepare for his transition to freedom.
“It’s a matter of getting him relocated and settled in and not having any pressure in that transition,” said Patton. “Kerry, his sister is working very hard to make it smooth.”
Crowe was found stabbed to death inside her bedroom in 1998. Tuite, a known mentally ill transient, was found guilty and convicted in 2004, but the verdict was overturned in 2011. He was retried and a jury found him not guilty on Friday.
His release is a satisfying win for those who stood by him from the beginning.
“I’ve always believed very strongly that Richard Tuite was not involved in these offenses,” Patton said.
Television cameras were not allowed inside the court proceedings, but Patton who describes Tuite’s demeanor as introverted and quiet said it was obvious he was happy.
“He turned back to his sister and gave her a loving smile because she has been with him throughout this process,” he said.
“For Richard going from the contained environment he’s been in to back into family’s hands is a big change – a wonderful change, but a big change!” said Patton.
Before Tuite was prosecuted, Stephanie’s brother, Michael Crowe, and friends Joshua Treadway and Aaron Houser were accused of her murder, and police extracted confessions. However, the admissions were later ruled to have been coerced by Escondido police and an assisting Oceanside officer under harsh interrogation tactics and the case against the boys was dismissed.
Michael Crowe, Treadway and Houser testified during Tuite’s retrial that they had no involvement in Stephanie’s murder.
Tuite was in the area of the Crowe residence the night Stephanie was stabbed to death, looking for woman named Tracy.
Prosecutors theorized that Tuite wandered into the Crowe home and killed Stephanie, but investigators found no physical evidence linking Tuite to the crime scene.
Analysts later found the victim’s blood on two shirts that Tuite was wearing the night of the murder. Jurors who voted to acquit Tuite said they believed the defense theory of contamination, that blood from the crime scene somehow was transferred onto Tuite’s clothing.