ESCONDIDO, Calif. - The U.S. Supreme Court declined Monday to review a lower court ruling that overturned the conviction of transient Richard Tuite for killing 12-year-old Stephanie Crowe in her Escondido home in 1998.
Monday's ruling by the nation's highest court means that Tuite could be in line for a new trial.
Stephanie was stabbed to death in her family home on Jan. 21, 1998. Escondido police charged her older brother, Michael, and two of his friends with murder, but those charges were dismissed on the eve of trial when the
victim's DNA was found on clothing worn by Tuite.
Tuite was convicted in 2004 and sentenced to 17 years in prison.
Stephanie's mother, Cheryl, was angry over Monday's ruling. She spoke with 10News from her home in Oregon.
"People don't kill people and just stop," she said. "He'll get out and he'll kill someone again and they'll say, 'Oh if they had only kept him in jail.'"
Last year, a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the conviction, saying Tuite didn't get a fair trial because his lawyer should have been allowed to question a prosecution witness regarding a
letter disparaging the work of a defense expert.
Tuite is aware of the legal maneuvering through his attorney, Brad Patton.
"I have talked to him indirectly through his family and yes, he's excited," said Patton.
The new trial was ordered because the defense was not allowed to impeach a prosecution witness.
"We had an expert witness from the FBI who said this was an organized crime scene… inconsistent with a schizophrenic, delusional individual," said Patton.
That was a description of his client, who was obviously disturbed.
Patton also told 10News that he would present new evidence.
"The small amount of blood found on Richard Tuite's shirt... we were given notification a month before trial," he said. "The prosecution witness said it was wet when it was applied. We did not have a chance to get an expert witness to reevaluate it."
Cheryl Crowe said justice is not being served if Tuite is either freed or granted a new trial.
"Not for the innocent victim he's going to kill next, not for us… not for Stephanie, no," she said.