SAN DIEGO (CNS) - Jury deliberations began Wednesday in the retrial of a drifter accused of fatally stabbing a 12-year-old girl in her Escondido home nearly 16 years ago.
Richard Tuite, 44, was convicted in 2004 of voluntary manslaughter in the 1998 death of Stephanie Crowe, but a federal appeals court reversed the conviction in 2011, saying Tuite didn't get a fair trial because a judge limited cross-examination of a prosecution witness.
In her opening statement of the retrial, Deputy Attorney General Alana Butler said Tuite was in the area of the Crowe home the night Stephanie Crowe was killed, Jan. 20, 1998. Investigators later found the victim's blood on Tuite's shirt and the defendant had items in his pockets from inside the Crowe residence when he was stopped and questioned the next day, Butler said.
Butler said Tuite exhibited "obsessive, delusional and rage-filled behavior" the night of the killing, knocking on doors at homes near the victim's house looking for a friend named "Tracy."
The prosecutor noted that investigators focused on Stephanie Crowe's brother, Michael, believing he was jealous of his high-achieving sister. Eventually, Michael Crowe and his then-15-year-old friends, Joshua Treadway and Aaron Houser, were 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 red shirt Tuite was wearing the night of the killing and a white shirt he had on underneath. A judge ruled that so-called confessions from the boys were coerced by Escondido police and an assisting Oceanside officer under harsh interrogation tactics
Defense attorney Brad Patton said Tuite was not aggressive toward neighbors the night of the killing, and no one saw him with a weapon. Patton said Michael Crowe was isolated, played violent video games and was jealous of his sister Stephanie.
The defense attorney said investigators at the crime scene failed to wear booties as they walked through the crime scene and could have contaminated evidence by transferring blood onto Tuite's shirts.