San Diego

Crowe Family Urges Board of Supe's Not to Appoint Stephan

Stephanie Crowe, 12, was murdered in 1998; Summer Stephan was among the prosecutors on the case, which to this day, remains unsolved

The family of Stephanie Crowe, a 12-year-old Escondido girl murdered in 1998, is urging the San Diego County Board of Supervisors not to appoint one of the prosecutors on their daughter's botched homicide case to the position of District Attorney.

In a 22-page letter sent to the Board of Supervisors on Monday, the slain girl's parents accuse top prosecutor, Summer Stephan, of perjury, and of using her role in the prosecution of their daughter's murder to get ahead politically.

"Stephan is using my dead daughter to promote her political ambitions through falsehood and misrepresentation," the legally-phrased letter states. "I am not going to let her get away with it."

In her application for appointment to DA, Stephan wrote that she followed her conscience on a tough and complicated case, and "did the right thing."

Stephan released this statement to NBC 7 on Thursday:

"My heart goes out to the Crowe family for the loss of their daughter and their understandable grief nearly 20 years after this terrible crime. I can’t imagine the additional pain of not having closure through the justice system in that no one stands convicted of this murder.

I’ve been able to help hundreds of families get justice over the last 27 years, and I wish I could have done that for this family. The courts are the place where claims of misconduct are reviewed, and in my case, there is a clearly established timeline and decisions by objective courts that did not find misconduct and that confirm the truth of my statements."

In 2004, a federal court judge ruled Stephan had committed no wrong-doing during the prosecution of the Crowe case.

Before Stephan's involvement, prosecutors charged the victim's brother and two of his high school friends with the murder.

Later, Crowe's blood was found on the shirt of transient Richard Tuite, who was seen near her home on the night she was killed.

The case remains unsolved and among the most controversial crimes in San Diego's history. Many in the community remain upset no one was ever held accountable for the horrific murder of a bright, young girl.

Last month, Stephan told the Union-Tribune “all the decision-making had been made” by the time she got involved in the Crowe murder case.

Stephan filed papers to run for DA in 2018 and has also applied to finish District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis' term.

Dumanis is planning to step down from office in July as she ponders a bid for a seat on the Board of Supervisors. Her early resignation clears the path for her second-in-command Chief Deputy DA Stephan to step into the elected office as an interim replacement, and then run as an incumbent in 2018.

Stephan has been extremely visible in recent years, as a tireless advocate for victims of human trafficking, and her supporters say she has nearly unanimous support from her colleagues in the DA's office, as well as endorsements from top law enforcement labor unions and Sheriff Bill Gore. 

The letter, which appears to be written by an attorney but is signed by Cheryl and Stephan Crowe, also slams Dumanis.

A spokesman for Dumanis did not comment on the letter.

NBC 7 requested to interview the Crowe's about the letter.

"I stand by everything in my letter and have nothing to add," Cheryl Crowe told NBC 7.

Cheryl Crowe later sent NBC 7 a letter with more information, saying the letter about Stephan was written with the assistance of her attorney, Milt Silverman.

"I wanted to make sure that everything said in my letter was completely accurate and wanted to make sure that I explained my points clearly and precisely. I wanted to make sure that everything I said was legally correct," she said.

NBC 7 called Silverman to find out if he assisted in the research for the letter. Silverman did not return requests for comment. 

Cheryl Crowe answered this question in her letter to NBC 7 Friday:

"No one paid for 'legal research' or anything else. After winning our case in federal court, Milt Silverman has done many, many thousands of dollars of work in the aftermath – which he had no legal responsibility to do – completely free of charge. One example was the motion he filed with the court to have Michael declared factually innocent. He prepared voluminous papers and participated in several days of trial. He did it for free. He aided and assisted me in writing my letter completely free of charge.

There was no “legal research.” There is nothing in the letter which required legal research. It did require a very detailed knowledge of everything which happened in the case. Milt Silverman and I have that knowledge. I have most, if not all, of the records in the case. So does Milt Silverman. Also, both of us could speak for hours about every detail of the case. My letter cited page and line of court decisions and transcripts and provided a scan of the grand jury and photos of the reconstruction.

I have heard that supporters and allies of Stephan have been saying – or at least suggesting – that someone opposed to Stephan paid Silverman to write my letter. This is totally false. In my opinion, this is all an effort by Stephan and her supporters to change the subject."

Cheryl Crowe called her letter "effective," writing this in her letter to NBC 7:

"It was effective because it presented the facts and provided the evidence backing up everything I said. I have heard that supporters or allies of Stephan have been saying that I am essentially a pawn who is being used by my lawyer to prevent Stephan from being appointed Interim D.A. Nothing is farther from the truth. The idea and impetus for me to speak out was entirely my own. I was the impetus behind it. No one put me up to anything. No one is using me."

Editor's Note: This story has been updated to reflect more information from Sheryl Crowe, written in a letter to NBC 7 Friday.

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