January 21, 1998 was the beginning of one of the most appalling police coercion cases, involving the murder of 12-year-old Stephanie Crowe, and the main suspect: her 14-year old brother, Michael. In the morning when Stephanie’s body was found and police called, they interviewed each and every family member, but focused on Michael and two of his closest friends. According to a 2003 New York Times Upfront article, Michael “was questioned for 27 hours over a three day period” (Bell, n. d. ).
Due to the police believing that Michael and his friends were the ones who committed this crime against his own sister, he wasn’t able to go to her funeral; instead he was being interrogated by authorities and preparing for trial. Michael Crowe, and his 2 friends, Josh Treadway and Aaron Hauser, spent six months in jail before the charges were finally dropped. Apparently throughout the investigation, including the morning of the crime, a man named Richard Tuite had been a possible suspect as well.
The Crowe family all believed from the start that “Tuite – a drifter, felon, and diagnosed schizophrenic – stabbed Stephanie nine times in her bed after sneaking into their house” (Leung, 2009). Tuite’s clothing had been taken the morning of the scene investigation, but the police had said there was no incriminating evidence contained in it and no reason to hold him in custody. As trial got closer for Michael and his friends, “they recanted their story and said they made it all up – under intense pressure from the police” (Leung, 2009).
Josh Treadway had the most detailed confession, but his public defender, Mary Ellen Attridge, believed they were set up by police. She planned to turn the court’s attention back to Tuite, and while reviewing evidence, she discovered that his sweatshirt hadn’t been tested for DNA, but there were stains on it. The testing done on this one article of clothing revealed three drops of Stephanie’s blood, causing the charges to be dropped and eventually, after a year of reluctance without an arrest, the trial attention moved to Richard Tuite, who eventually was convicted and sentenced to a maximum of 13 years in prison.
It was the work of Vic Caloca, a senior investigator with the San Diego Sheriff’s Department, who “was in charge of the new investigation, he quickly focused in on the interrogation tapes… He noted that the boys had no lawyers with them and were isolated from their parents for extended periods” (Leung, 2009). Caloca’s review of the tapes proved to him the boys’ innocence “because their stories simply did not fit the facts of the crime” (Leung, 2009). ?