Detective: No evidence links boys to Crowe murder - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Detective: No evidence links boys to Crowe murder

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) - No evidence exists to tie Michael Crowe or two of his friends to the January 1998 murder of his 12-year-old sister in Escondido, a retired detective testified Friday.

Victor Caloca, who reviewed the investigation into the killing of Stephanie Crowe, took the stand at a hearing in which Michael Crowe and Joshua Treadway are asking Judge Kenneth So to declare them factually innocent.

Michael Crowe, Treadway and Aaron Houser were charged with Stephanie's murder. A judge subsequently ruled that harsh interrogations coerced false "confessions" from Crowe, then 14, and Treadway, then 15, and the charges against them were dropped.

Crowe's attorney, Milton Silverman, said his now-28-year-old client wants the judicial finding to clear his name and record.

"There is absolutely no evidence linking these boys to Stephanie's murder," Caloca said as he wrapped up today's testimony.

Richard Tuite, a mentally ill drifter seen acting bizarrely in the vicinity of the Crowe home by multiple witnesses, was later convicted of the murder on the strength of DNA evidence. Caloca said several witnesses placed Tuite in the area, and Tuite told him he might have knocked on the Crowes' door while looking for a woman.

Caloca said he has not seen evidence inconsistent with Tuite, who's now in his early 40s, being the killer.

Tuite's conviction was overturned, however, because of a trial error. He remains in custody, awaiting a new trial.

The judge plans to take the next few weeks to watch recordings of the interrogations of the boys by Escondido police detectives and an Oceanside police officer who was assisting them.

He scheduled the hearing to resume May 10.

There were several problems with the initial investigation into Stephanie's killing, including a series of six photographs of men shown to neighbors that included one of Tuite from eight years earlier, Caloca said. Detectives who located Tuite never asked him if he killed the girl, he said.

Silverman played for the judge a recording of a September 2002 deposition of retired Escondido police Detective Ralph Claytor, who conceded that he answered several questions at a grand jury hearing incorrectly and admitted that he did not have a full understanding of DNA evidence.

The result was that grand jurors were left with the impression that no one other than her brother was in Stephanie's room that night when, in fact, strands of hair found in her hand belonged to someone who could not be identified, Silverman said.

The families of all three boys filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the cities of Escondido and Oceanside in 1999, claiming they were denied their rights against self-incrimination and false arrest. Key portions were thrown out by a judge in 2004 and 2005. But in 2010, a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeal reinstated the bulk of the case.

Last fall, the Crowe family settled the suit for $7.25 million. At the time, Michael Crowe, who had moved to Oregon and was a first-time expectant father, said no amount of money would undo what police had done to his family.

His mother told reporters the family was ready to move on and focus on the new baby.

Treadway previously dropped out of the civil lawsuit and Houser settled shortly before the Crowe family did, but the terms of his settlement were not disclosed.

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