Richard Tuite, the man whose conviction was overturned in the 1998 death of an Escondido girl, returned to court Wednesday.
Tuite will be tried again in the murder of 12-year-old Stephanie Crowe. Prosecutors said they decided to retry Tuite because of the seriousness of the crime and public safety.
The 43-year old has been serving a 17-year sentence in a northern California prison.
In 2004, Tuite was convicted of voluntary manslaughter and sentenced to state prison.
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.
On Jan. 21, 1998, Stephanie's body was discovered in her Escondido bedroom.
Investigators quickly focused on her brother Michael Crowe and his friends Aaron Houser and Joshua Treadway.
The three boys were interrogated until Crowe and Treadway confessed. A judge later threw out those confessions and the charges against the three teens were dropped.
Tuite, a mentally ill transient seen in Stephanie's neighborhood around the time of the murder, was convicted in the case.
He was serving a 17-year prison sentence at Mule Creek State Prison when his conviction was overturned.
Earlier this year, the murder case was in the news again when the brother of Stephanie Crowe petitioned a court to clear his name. In May, a San Diego judge declared Michael Crowe and Joshua Treadway factually innocent.
Houser filed a lawsuit against four Escondido police officers, an Oceanside police officer, and a psychologist and settled for an undisclosed amount in 2011.
The Crowe family received a $7.2 million settlement in November 2011 in a civil suit against the cities of Oceanside and Escondido. The also reached a settlement for nearly $1 million in a separate case against a psychologist.
Tuite be back in court next week when prosecutors will file charges and Tuite's bail will be reviewed.
When Tuite entered the courtroom Wednesday, he looked around for a few seconds, and then lowered his head and stared at the floor.
Forensic psychologist Clarke Smith, MD, spent hours analyzing Tuite shortly before he was convicted for voluntary manslaughter in Crowe’s case and has some insight about Tuite’s state of mind.
“He’s very severely mentally ill. He’s lost in his own little world of fantasy and psychosis,” Smith told NBC 7. “He has the most serious form of schizophrenia – it’s called undifferentiated. Their brain is just out of control, their thoughts are out of control; they’re just very unpredictable.”
During his analysis of Tuite, Smith said he seemed fixated on a girl he knew in high school, someone Tuite claimed would talk to him in his mind and make him angry.
"In his case he never got to date her, marry her, may not even have talked to her. It didn't make any difference, he was just locked onto that, couldn't think about anything else,” recalled Smith.
That obsession, Smith said, may have ultimately led Tuite to Crowe.
Before the murder, witnesses told investigators they saw Tuite walking through Crowe’s Escondido neighborhood, knocking on doors and entering people’s home through unlocked doors.
Smith believes that’s when Tuite may have seen Stephanie.
"He may have been hanging out, thinking that she actually was the girl he talked to every night in his hallucinations," said Smith.
Based on all of the evidence – both psychological and physical – Smith believes Tuite is most likely the killer.
"I think the big question for me as a psychiatrist is did he really understand what he was doing?" said Smith.