A retired deputy testified he was sickened and lost sleep over the interrogation of a teenager and his friends in an Escondido girl’s death 14 years ago.
Victor Caloca, a former detective with the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, testified Friday at a hearing in which Michael Crowe, 28, is asking a judge to restore his reputation and declare him “factually innocent” in his sister’s death.
Caloca described how he was outraged at the harsh interview techniques detectives used on Crowe and his friends after 12-year-old Stephanie Crowe was found stabbed to death in a bedroom of her Escondido home.
"I was saddened actually because they shouldn’t be doing what they’re doing to these boys and I knew that,” he testified.
“I got sick, lost a lot of sleep, because I had seen something I have been trained all those years not to do."
After the killing in January 1998, Michael Crowe, who was 12 at the time, and his two then-teenage friends Aaron Houser and Joshua Treadway were questioned and charged with the murder.
The case against them quickly unraveled.
A judge ruled their confessions were coerced by law enforcement officers who had bullied the teens, and lied to them, to get those confessions.
And a transient was later convicted, after traces of the dead girl's blood were found on his sweatshirt.
Just months ago, a federal appeals court threw out the verdict against that transient, Richard Tuite.
Detective Caloca also testified that Tuite admitted he had been in Stephanie's bedroom, but allegedly did not kill her.
Caloca told Judge So he had interviewed Tuite in jail, before Tuite was arrested for Stephanie Crowe’s murder.
When the two-day hearing ended late this afternoon, Judge So indicated he will review more of the evidence at another hearing, next month.
The case has been filled with twists and turns, including a recent decision by a federal appeals court, that voided Tuite's conviction, and ordered a new trial for him.
Crowe family attorney Milt Silverman told Superior Court Judge Kenneth So that the lead detectives in the initial investigation were "scoundrels and liars" who framed Michael Crowe and his two friends to protect an officer who Silverman said botched the initial investigation.
Silverman intends to call a superior court judge as a witness as well as Stephanie and Michael Crowe's mother, Cheryl Crowe.
Michael Crowe and his father will not testify or attend the hearing, which is expected to last two days.
The family's lawyer says their testimony is not needed, and that it would be too emotionally draining for Michael and Steven Crowe to relive Stephanie's murder.
The Crowes received a $7.2 million settlement in November 2011 from a case against the cities of Oceanside and Escondido.