Judge rules Richard Tuite has served his time for 2004 escape, should be released

SAN DIEGO - A transient acquitted last week in the 1998 stabbing death of 12-year-old Stephanie Crowe moved a step closer to freedom Tuesday when a judge re-sentenced him to credit for time served for escape and bribery convictions.

Richard Tuite, 44, was acquitted last Friday of a voluntary manslaughter charge after a second trial. He was convicted of the same charge in 2004, but a federal appeals court in 2011 ruled that Tuite didn't get a fair trial because a judge limited cross-examination of a prosecution witness.

Tuite's original sentence was 13 years in prison for the manslaughter count and four years, four months behind bars for escaping from custody at the downtown courthouse and offering a deputy $24,000 to help him escape.

Judge Frederic Link ruled Tuesday that Tuite had served his time in custody for those offenses.

It will now be up to the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to determine if Tuite should be placed on parole -- the length would likely be about a year -- said defense attorney Brad Patton. Once the determination is made, Tuite should be released, probably in about 10 days, Patton said.

"His (Tuite's) family is working on a transition process for him," the attorney said. "Right now it's just a matter of getting him relocated, settled in, not having a lot of pressure. That transition will be made smoothly, and Kerri, his sister, is working very diligently to cause that to happen. This is just a process where he is very much looking forward to getting back with his family."

The victim's father, Stephen Crowe, isn't happy about Tuite's impending freedom.

"I'm angry, upset, worried and more. The whole thing has been one nightmare after another," he said, speaking by phone from the new family home in Oregon. "He got lucky. He got away with murder is what he did and I can't do nothing about it, whatsoever. Just like at the start, I had no control over this whatsoever."

Patton told reporters that Tuite's family has been busy preparing for his homecoming.

"For Richard going from the contained environment that he's been in for this period of time back into his family's hands is a big change; it's a wonderful change but it's a big change," Patton said.

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.

RELATED: Retrial jury finds Richard Tuite not guilty in 1998 slaying of Stephanie Crowe http://bit.ly/18dBSkP

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