On Monday, Stephanie Crowe’s mother described the moment she found her 12-year-old daughter stabbed to death in the family’s Escondido home as part of the first full day of testimony in the retrial of Richard Tuite.
On Jan. 21, 1998, the Crowe family found Stephanie, stabbed nine times and collapsed in the doorway of her bedroom.
“She was lying on the floor and she was really cold so I tried to lay on her and make her warm,” Cheryl Crowe said through tears.
Jurors saw a picture of Stephanie and her siblings Shannon and Michael taken the weekend before Stephanie was killed.
They also heard the 911 call made after the discovery of Stephanie’s body. Several people can be heard on the recording screaming in the background as the 911 dispatcher tries to figure out what is going on inside the home.
Tuite, a mentally-ill transient, was convicted of killing the Escondido girl in 2004. Last year, a federal appeals court voided Tuite's conviction and ordered a new trial.
The first witness to be called to testify, Cheryl Crowe described the home’s layout, the family’s night before Stephanie was killed and their usual routine on locking doors.
Prosecutors told jurors that neighbors saw someone matching Tuite's description acting strangely in the neighborhood, knocking on doors and looking for someone named Tracy.
Stephanie's older brother Michael and his friends Aaron Houser and Joshua Treadway were initially arrested and charged in the crime. A judge later dismissed the charges, ruling the teenagers' confessions were coerced by Escondido police. Michael Crowe and Joshua Treadway were later found to be factually innocent in the case.
Tuite was then arrested and charged with the crime after investigators with the San Diego County Sheriff's Department reported finding blood belonging to Stephanie on two shirts worn by Tuite.
Defense attorneys argue the blood was accidentally transferred to Tuite's clothing by investigators.
In opening statements, Tuite's defense attorneys claimed they will provide evidence to show the crime could not be committed by one person.
The Crowe family has always maintained Michael’s innocence and received a $7.2 million settlement in November 2011 in a civil suit against the cities of Oceanside and Escondido.