One of three plaintiffs wrongfully accused of murdering 12-year-old Stephanie Crowe has agreed to a settlement, according to court documents obtained by NBC San Diego.
"Aaron Houser had just turned 15 when Stephanie Crowe was murdered by Richard Tuite. At the time of the murder Aaron was home studying for his honor's geometry test,” said Houser’s lawyer, Denny Schoville. “At no time during his interrogations did any of the defendants ever ask him or his family where he was on the night of the murder.”
Houser agreed to settle for an undisclosed amount of money in a lawsuit against four Escondido police officers, an Oceanside police officer, and a psychologist, the documents revealed.
“It has been a long time coming and their goals have been met. The defendants have bought their peace and we have agreed to confidentiality. Aaron, who is currently working with autistic children would like to pursue advanced degrees in psychology," said Schoville.
Legal analyst John Gomez says most cases like this settle.
“Trial would be hard for Houser, and will be hard for the Crowe family,” said Gomez. “It would revive a lot of memories, a lot of unpleasant things to think about.”
The defense, he says, could also risk a big award, bad publicity and embarrassment.
“Just as the plaintiff's life is being shown to the public, here you would have press coverage. This is a high profile case. The actions of the San Diego, Escondido police would be looked at quite closely, and perhaps they didn't want that as well," said Gomez.
The case began on the morning of Jan. 21, 1998, when the Crowes' grandmother found Stephanie's body in her Escondido bedroom.
Investigators quickly focused on Stephanie's brother, 14-year-old Michael Crowe, noting that their suspicion was aroused when they noticed him emotionlessly playing a handheld video game while the rest of the family grieved the morning his sister's body was discovered.
Soon after, investigators implicated Michael's friends, Aaron Houser and Joshua Treadway.
The three boys were repeatedly interrogated over many hours until Crowe and Treadway confessed.
A judge later found that those confessions were made by scared teens worn down by what the appeals court described as "hours of grueling, psychologically abusive interrogation."
Michael Crowe is still suing over the matter. Trial is set to begin Oct. 31 but may be delayed until November.
Treadway dropped out of the lawsuit several years ago.