SAN DIEGO (CNS) - A man who was previously acquitted of a 12-year-old Escondido girl's murder was released from county jail this week, months after he was charged with being a felon at a county jail.
Richard Raymond Tuite, 51, was released Thursday after a judge set his bail at $0 for a single felony count of being an ex-con on prison grounds or adjacent lands, one of several offenses now being set at $0 bail in an effort to reduce jail populations since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
He was charged in January for allegedly being at a corrections facility while having prior convictions that include burglary, bribery and escape from a jail. Details on why Tuite was at the jail remain unclear.
Tuite had been in custody since January following the arrest, and his criminal case was recently reinstated after he was previously found mentally incompetent to stand trial. He's due back in court Sept. 24 for a preliminary hearing.
Tuite was previously convicted of voluntary manslaughter and sentenced to 13 years in state prison in the well-publicized case regarding the stabbing death of seventh-grader Stephanie Crowe, but his conviction was later overturned and he was acquitted in a 2013 retrial.
Crowe's body was found sprawled in the doorway of her bedroom by her grandmother early on the morning of Jan. 21, 1998. She had been stabbed nine times.
Her older brother, Michael, and two of his friends, Aaron Houser and Joshua Treadway, initially were accused of committing the murder, and police extracted confessions from two of them during lengthy interrogations.
The admissions were later ruled to have been coerced, and the charges against the boys were dismissed. During Tuite's retrial, the now-adult former suspects testified that they had no involvement in Stephanie's death.
Tuite had been in the area of the Crowe residence the night the girl was killed. He was agitated and looking for a woman named Tracy, according to prosecutors, who contended that the disheveled and seemingly confused transient wandered into the Crowe home and attacked the girl.
Investigators, however, found no physical evidence directly linking him to the crime scene.
Analysts later found the victim's blood on two shirts that Tuite had been wearing on the day of the murder. Jurors who voted to acquit Tuite said they believed a defense theory of "contamination," in which blood from the crime scene somehow wound up transferred onto Tuite's clothing.
More than two decades after the murder, two families reacted Friday after Tuite was released in the current case.
"I'm absolutely pleased. He is not a danger to anyone and doesn't belong in jail," said Tuite's sister, Kerry Licon.
"Richard Tuite, free, walking the streets after murdering my child, is our family's daily struggle to cope with. The absence of integrity, common sense - mixed in with qualified immunity - isn't just worrisome for us. It is a threat to everyone's safety!" said Stephanie's mother, Cheryl Crowe.