On January 20, 1998, popular, pretty twelve-year-old Stephanie Ann Crowe of Escondido, California, was murdered in her own bed, in her own home one evening as the family slept in rooms nearby.
Police quickly developed a theory that this was an inside job because all doors and windows remained locked; the “JonBenet theory,” if you will. And, contrary to what good detectives know of how you let the the evidence develop the theory not vice versa, two investigators set out on the path of proving that Stephanie’s 14-year-old brother and his two Dungeon and Dragon playing friends, Joshua Treadway and Aaron Hauser, are responsible for her death.
Following two days of extremely intense interrogations while Michael is suffering with the flu and Aaron and Josh are adamant about their exhaustion and desire to sleep, two of the boys (Michael and Josh) confess to what the detectives want to hear so that they will be able to leave.
Instead all three are arrested and charged with the murder of Stephanie Crowe. There’s just one problem: the boys didn’t do it.
Despite reports of a transient man (Richard Tuite) knocking on random doors of several homes in close proximity to the Crowe residence and later witnessed shouting obscenities at a nonexistent woman, police never gave much consideration to his being a suspect. They conducted a short interview, took some of his clothing as samples, but it was all just for good measure. They were certain that Michael and company was guilty. After all why would anyone confession to a crime they didn’t commit?
After serving seven long months in a juvenile facility, hearing whispered rumors about their guilt or innocence within the community, and not being permitted to attend their high school, Detective Vic Coloca became the saving grace for three young men when he realized their confessions were coerced and false. After many years of hard work, and sometimes dirty politics, Detective Coloca proved the boys’ innocence and provided the evidence for a jury to convict Tuite of the crime.
Shattered Justice by John Philpin outlines the fascinating and angering story of three boys so beaten down that they confess to a murder they didn’t commit. While it is a story that is shocking and spellbinding, the book is so bogged down with minute and useless details that it becomes tedious. And the little to no detail provided on those involved and writing that overall reads like a newspaper, and the lack not any real research, turns a great story into a mediocre book.
However, if somebody asked me to say at least positive thing about this book, I would say that it serves as a bold reminder that we should all teach our children about the rights’ provided to them per the Miranda Lawn lest this becomes their story.
And for that, and that alone, Shattered Justice becomes recommending reading – just buy a used copy instead of paying new book prices.
Movies about this case: The Interrogation of Michael Crowe starring Ally Sheedy and Mark Rendall.
Ready to read it? Here’s where you can buy it:
UPDATES FROM THIS BOOK:
In January 2010, the 9th United States Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Michael Crowe and his friend in their claims against the Escondido Police Department. While this verdict is not the last step, it is one step closer to its finality.
Richard Tuite‘s conviction was overturned on September 8, 2011.