The book She’s so cold by Donald E. McInnis describes the case of Stephanie Ann Crowe (April 12, 1985 – Jan 21, 1998) who was murdered inside her own bedroom in her parental home in an isolated suburb in Escondido, California.
Her time of death was around 1230am at the latest but her death may have happened as early as 9pm. The medical examiner based this on his autopsy findings pointing to her stomach content.
The cause of death: multiple deep stab wounds to her head, neck, and shoulders. Stephanie had defensive wounds as well. There were no finger prints. The murder weapon was never found.
Miscarriage of Justice
Stephanie was twelve years old when she was murdered. Her case is tragic on many levels. It involves the wrongful arrests, incarcerations, and trials of three young men, one of them her own brother. Later, a judge would declare them all factually innocent. But there’s a lot more.
Donald E. McInnis wrote the book “She’s co sold.” He explains the murder, the Reid Technique of Interrogations used against the three boys, and the changes that he wishes to see to protect Children’s Rights.
The police investigation, multiple interrogations of these three young men, and general handling of the case were deplorable at best. The man ultimately arrested and convicted for her murder had his conviction overturned. In 2013, he was retried and then acquitted. His name is Richard Raymond Tuite. More about him below.
On the night of the murder, dispatch was called by several concerned neighbors in Stephanie’ quiet suburb in Escondido. A disoriented or confused stranger was walking around, knocking on doors, and was looking for a woman called ‘Tracy.’ This man was Tuite.
Three spots with Stephanie’s blood were later found on Tuite’s red sweatshirt and t-shirt. The trial for the three young men, who were already incarcerated for 6 months, was immediately placed on hold, they were ultimately released, and eventually they were declared factually innocent. But these DNA results didn’t close the case.
Tuite has a history of schizophrenia and was hospitalized many times, as per his family. He admitted being in the Crowe neighborhood on the night of the murder and, he is known to police. In his criminal record are: arrests on drug charges, attempted burglary, and assault with a deadly weapon. Yet, his defense pointed out that the blood-spots were on his clothes due to contamination, there was no trace evidence of the Crowe house on Tuite (to place him at the scene), or any traces of Tuite in the Crowe house. How did he get in? Where did he hide before he killed Stephanie? How did he get out of the house? What was his motive?
Donald E. McInnis was the defending attorney for Aaron Houser. When Aaron was 15, he and Michael Crowe (14) and Joshua Treadway (14) were arrested for Stephanie’s murder.
Their confessions and the manner in which the authorities got those confessions are a clear case of conduct unbecoming an officer.
The three teens were interrogated for hours without legal representation and proper rest by men who had forgotten all about their sworn oath. Police allowed themselves to be swayed by a maniacal, egoistic desire to close the files.
The officers involved forgot that closing a file is not synonymous to finding the truth, justice for the victim, and being able to stand in court with a clear conscience.
When you read McInnis’ description of the interrogation sessions you will see that the sanity of three young teens was systematically shredded to pieces by claims that
- police had the evidence of their guilt (not true),
- their parents believed that they were guilty (not true), and
- their families never wanted to see them again (not true)
The officers even made Michael write a letter to Stephanie to ask her forgiveness. They interrogated these minors before a hidden video, played them against each other creating even more confusion, and of course, the “but what if…” game was played.
Their words of grief and confusion were used against them to get confessions, normal teen behavior (yes, Michael’s behavior immediately reminded me of Burke Ramsey) was called into question, the boys’ requests to see their mothers were denied, and a naive father, who believed that the police could and would never do anything wrong, was used to achieve the desired goal: confessions that detailed how the murder was planned, what role each teen played, and what happened to the murder weapon.
To top this off, we have one teen who was not properly read his Miranda Rights and another teen was tricked to sign away his Miranda Rights by including that into a release form for a stress analyzer. Yet, this was all taken to court.
Trial Judge Laura P. Hammes was told with a straight face that nobody else could have entered the Crowe home that night. Police admitted that they arrested Tuite as he exited a laundromat but they didn’t immediately check inside for items that he might have left behind. They didn’t immediately talk to the owner either, or ask the owner for any CCTV tapes or unusual activity.
The prosecution said that Stephanie was stabbed through her bed comforter. This supposedly would explain why the boys and their clothes were not bloody. However, if it is true that she was stabbed through a comforter or any bedding material, should we not have found some residue of fiber in her stab wounds?
The book’s title “She’s so cold” refers to Stephanie’s mom. When she found her daughter’s body, Cheryl Crowe cradled Stephanie in her arms, against her chest and neck, and said that she was so cold. The mother thought that if only she could get her daughter warm again, she would be ok. She would be fine again as soon as she got warm.
The parents, in their grief, slightly moved Stephanie’s body and yes, they possibly did damage to traces on the floor. But they didn’t kill Stephanie. Neither did Michael Crowe, or Joshua Treadway, or Aaron Hauser. And thanks to shameful police work, we will never know for certain who was responsible. Tuite (now 50) is in trouble with the law again. He plead not guilty to the single felony count of being an ex-convict on jail property. If he is convicted, and considering his record, he could face the maximum of six years in prison. He is held on $20,000 bail.
UPDATE June 2020: Tuite was released, you can read about that here.
McInnis’ book is heartbreaking and will infuriate you. The rights of children were trampled to close a file. Procedure was thrown out the window to get a confession no matter how fabricated it would be, or how delusional it would sound.
Note that the text in the book from the interrogations are taken from the various court proceedings and transcripts. You need to take your time to let sink in what was done to these teens and how many twists police went through. It is very realistic. It might be hurtful to read by those who were in similar situations.
McInnis ends his book with his suggestions for a new Children’s Miranda Rights Warning and a Bill of Rights for Children who are arrested, in police custody, and are being questioned as suspects. He hopes to prevent that any child makes a false confession that will destroy their life, the lives of their family members, and ultimately, deliver a useless set of words that do nothing for the victim and/or justice.
If you are interested in interrogation techniques, children’s rights, and/or wrongful convictions, this book is for you. Highly recommended reading!