A federal civil rights lawsuit filed by the family of slain pre-teen Stephanie Crowe against the cities of Escondido and Oceanside was settled Friday for $7.25 million, according to a published report.
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Crowe's parents, sister and brother agreed to the settlement in a conference call with U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Miller, according to 10News' media partner the San Diego Union-Tribune.
Stephanie, 12, was found dead on Jan. 21, 1998. Her brother, Michael, and two of his friends, Joshua Treadway and Aaron Houser, were charged with her murder.
Confessions made by the boys were ruled to have been coerced in harsh interrogations by detectives with the Escondido Police Department and an Oceanside officer who was assisting, and the charges were dismissed.
A transient who frequented the area, Richard Tuite, was later found guilty of murdering Stephanie. DNA from blood on his sweatshirt was a match for the girl, but in another twist in the case, his conviction was recently overturned on appeal.
The families of all three boys filed suit in 1999, claiming they were denied their rights against self-incrimination and false arrest. Key portions were thrown out by a judge in 2004 and 2005, but last year a panel of judges with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeal reinstated the bulk of the case that reached Friday's agreement.
"At the end of the day, it was a fair amount and we just decided no amount would undo what they did to us, and that's just the reality of it," Michael Crowe told the U-T. "No amount of money could undo what they did and no amount will bring my sister back."
According to the U-T report, Treadway previously dropped out of the lawsuit and Houser settled earlier this month, with terms not disclosed.
"The defendants insisted they were innocent. The public can draw their own inferences based on the fact that it's not confidential and the amount paid was $7.25 [million]," said Milt Silverman, the Crowe family's attorney.
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