Ex-con acquitted of Escondido girl's murder charged for visiting prison

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SAN DIEGO — A man who was previously acquitted of a 12-year-old Escondido girl’s murder was back in court Friday on charges of being a felon at a county jail.

Richard Raymond Tuite, 50, is charged with a single felony count of being an ex-con on prison grounds or adjacent lands.

Tuite was previously convicted of voluntary manslaughter and sentenced to 13 years in state prison in the well-publicized case regarding the stabbing death of seventh-grader Stephanie Crowe, but his conviction was later overturned and he was acquitted in a 2013 retrial.

He’s now charged for allegedly being at a corrections facility while having prior convictions that include burglary, bribery and escape from a jail. A sheriff’s arrest log indicates he was taken into custody Wednesday at the downtown San Diego Central Jail. Details on why Tuite was at the jail were not disclosed.

A criminal complaint indicates he could face up to three years in state prison if convicted.

Tuite is being held on $20,000 bail and is due back in court Feb. 4 for a readiness conference.

Stephanie Crowe’s body was found sprawled in the doorway of her bedroom by her grandmother early on the morning of Jan. 21, 1998. She had been stabbed nine times.

Her older brother, Michael, and two of his friends, Aaron Houser and Joshua Treadway, initially were accused of committing the murder, and police extracted confessions from two of them during lengthy interrogations.

The admissions were later ruled to have been coerced, and the charges against the boys were dismissed. During Tuite’s retrial, the now-adult former suspects testified that they had no involvement in Stephanie’s violent death.

Tuite had been in the area of the Crowe residence the night the girl was killed, agitated and looking for a woman named Tracy, according to prosecutors, who contended that the disheveled and seemingly confused transient wandered into the Crowe home and attacked the girl. Investigators, however, found no physical evidence directly linking him to the crime scene.

Analysts later found the victim’s blood on two shirts that Tuite had been wearing on the day of the murder. Jurors who voted to acquit Tuite said they believed a defense theory of “contamination,” in which blood from the crime scene somehow wound up transferred onto Tuite’s clothing.

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