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Review March 12th, 2009
Untitled Document

A Question of Murder
by lyle e davis

They say that timing is everything. If that’s true then the emergence in the marketplace of “A Question of Murder” couldn’t come at a much better time. This fascinating and powerful book takes a look at high profile cases that resulted in deaths of the rich and famous as well as the weak, frail, and poor. Two of the cases involve San Diego County cases that are fresh in the minds of readers, Stephanie Crowe and Danielle van Dam.

Above, Cyril Wecht, MD. JD
Below, Dawna Kaufmann

Cyril H. Wecht, MD, JD, world renown forensic pathologist, combines with Dawna Kaufmann, brilliant journalist who has written successfully for television, newspapers and magazines, to present a series of spellbinding accounts of these high profile cases. Of particular note with respect to timing is the Stephanie Crowe case. Thought to have been completed with the conviction and sentencing of Richard Raymond Tuite to prison, the case has now been revisited by The Innocence Project, a group of attorneys who work to free the wrongly convicted. They may take on the controversial case of mentally ill drifter Richard Tuite, who was found guilty five years ago in the stabbing death of Escondido’s young Stephanie Crowe. Attorneys with the group won their bid to investigate whether DNA testing is warranted in the 1998 Escondido slaying.

Initially, Escondido police charged the child’s teenage brother and his buddies with the murder. The case was tarnished by videotapes of the Escondido police interrogation of the brother and his friends which showed improper interrogation techniques and which has become an often used demonstration tape on exactly how not to interrogate suspects.

Dr. Wecht goes through, in painstaking detail, how he thoroughly evaluated the pathological evidence and determined that there was, in fact, sufficient evidence to show that Tuite, not Crowe’s brother or his pals, killed her. Dawna Kaufmann weaves this detailed pathological detail into a spellbinding tale that leaves you on the edge of your seat, wondering what will be discovered next.

The charges against the trio of teens were dropped in early 1999 after a judge ruled the confessions were coerced and after specks of Stephanie's blood were found on a piece of Tuite's clothing, which police had confiscated from him on the day Stephanie's body was found.

Another local case, the kidnapping and murder of Danielle van Dam, and the subsequent arrest, trial and conviction of David Westerfield is featured. The mother of Danielle has re-emerged in the public eye as she has stepped forward to support the parents of a currently missing Escondido girl, Amber Dubois.

Wecht and Kaufmann have blended the stories of Anna Nicole Smith, Stephanie Crowe, Danielle van Dam and the horrific accounts of the Memorial Medical Center patients/victims who died, into a book that is difficult, if not impossible, to put down. Kaufmann expertly takes the technical material supplied by Wecht and makes it not only readable and understandable, but compelling.

The two together make a tremendous team. It’s a must read, particularly now that the San Diego area element has re-emerged. Wecht and Kaufmann stand by their findings on the Crowe matter and doubt the Innocent Project will prove otherwise. Further, Wecht makes a compelling case for the need for prosecution in the Memorial Medical Center issue.

“A Question of Murder” is available at most major books stores as well as and





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