Tentative Date Set For Tuite Trial

Drifter Accused In 1998 Death Of Stephanie Crowe

A tentative Sept. 8 trial date was set Wednesday for a transient accused in the January 1998 stabbing death of 12-year-old Stephanie Crowe in her Escondido home.

Superior Court Judge Frederic Link selected the date after conferring privately with attorneys for Richard Tuite and prosecutors from the Attorney General's Office.

The judge made it clear, however, that Tuite's criminal trial will be moved up should a federal civil trial set for Aug. 5 start on time.

"This case is going to go before any civil case," Link said. "There will be no civil case before this case."

Tuite's attorneys, Brad Patton and William Fletcher, presented evidence at a 13-day preliminary hearing that they say points to Joshua Treadway, Aaron Houser and the victim's older brother, Michael, as her killers.

The three originally were charged with Stephanie's murder. But charges were dropped in 1999 when a DNA test revealed the victim's blood on a filthy red shirt Tuite wore the night of the killing.

The case was turned over to the San Diego County Sheriff's Department and the state Attorney General's Office three years ago.

Prosecutors put on evidence that they say shows two police interrogations of Treadway, now 20, were coerced and, therefore, unreliable.

Special Assistant Attorney General David Druliner said Escondido police investigators made "multiple assumptions" early on in the case, making it "theory-driven" as opposed to "evidence-driven."

Druliner said Tuite, a diagnosed schizophrenic, was seen in the area of the Crowe home on Jan. 20, 1998, the night before Stephanie's body was discovered. Tuite, who is being held without bail, knocked on doors asking for "Tracy," the prosecutor said.

The Crowe, Treadway and Houser families sued the Escondido Police Department, county prosecutors and others for alleged civil rights violations.

Tuite is charged with murder and the use of a knife. He faces 27 years to life in prison if convicted.

Another hearing in the criminal case is set for April 23.

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