The Interrogation of Michael Crowe (2002 TV Movie)
The lives of Escondido, California residents Cheryl and Stephen Crowe change one morning when they find their twelve year old daughter Stephanie Crowe stabbed to death in her bedroom. As procedure dictates, the police take each member of the household away individually to be questioned, and the remaining children - fourteen year old Michael Crowe and adolescent Shannon Crowe - are taken into protective custody until Cheryl and Stephen can be cleared. The police end up placing much of their focus on the sullen Michael, who they question without counsel and without discussion with his parents. The tone of the police questioning is that they believe Michael did kill his sister, the police lying, harassing and coercing in the process. Under the barrage of questioning, Michael eventually confesses, as do two of his friends, both questioned under the same threatening tone. Cheryl and Stephen, who are finally made aware of the questioning and the confessions, enlist the help of sympathetic attorney, Dorothy Sorenson, to clear Michael and his friends while trying to find the real killer, who they believe is a transient named Richard Tuite.
When 12-year-old Stephanie Crowe is brutally murdered at her home in her small home town, the authorities foolishly jump to conclusions that her 14-year-old brother Michael must be responsible. They completely ignore strong evidence that suggests another suspect is the one. They work hard to force Michael to falsely confess to what he did not do, in order to avoid tougher investigation.
- This is a tragic tale on several levels; for the family of Stephanie, the murdered little girl, for Michael, the 14-year-old brother who is accused of her murder, and particularly for the police who refuse to accept the possibility that someone else may have killed her.
The story focuses on the48 hours of intense and relentless interviews the police use to break down Michael and get him to admit to killing his sister, Stephanie. For hours on end and in interview after interview, the investigators, detectives, and forensic staff continue to push and peck away at Michael, who finally, in his own desperation to end this Kafakaesque ordeal, tells the cops what he states from the beginning of his "confession" is a a complete lie, that he did kill his sister after all.
Hey, wonderful! Eleven hours of intense questioning he finally gives in and cooks up a tale to match the evidence, even though he also tells the police that what he is telling them (his supposed confession) is really a lie but that they wat him to admit to it so he does, kindsa. The kid confesses and now the cops are happy campers. Michael himself now believes the pressure will be off him for good. But, being only 14, the poor lamb is being sacrificed without even realising it.
His family is horrified, his parents unbelieving that their son could kill his little sister so brutally, she was stabbed 14 times and Michael, just like about every red-blooded American teenage boy, has lots of drawings of knives used in various poses. He plays Dungeons & Dragons, a role-playng game which can become theoretically a bit violent amongst the players and in which many kinds of blades are used
The cops like Michael for the crime as they saw him as oddly unaffected over his sister's brutal death, and also while walking past her room with the door open 2 hours earlier, he should've seen her body from the doorway to her room.
things change, however, when Michael finally has the chance to talk with his parents, who are appalled at the treatment of their son by the police. The cops had a theory, they needed a confession, and they got it. Cops are allowed tto lie, misconstrue, deceive, and do whatever they need to in order to get hte greatly desired confession, the treasure at the end of the yellow brick road.
Unfortunately, a woman approaches one of the detectives attending Stephanie's funeral and tells him about her own son's kinfe collection and the fact that one of those knives is now missing. By her tone, we can assume that perhaps this boy may be a friend of Michael's?
next scene we see the parents being greeted by neighbor Bill, who asks them did they remember the homeless man who was going around the neighborhood one the night of the murder banging on everyone's doors looking for his ex-girlfriend. Gosh, didn't they remember that guy? and Bill wasn't alone in reporting him to the cops that night, either. Papa says 'what homeless guy'? Cop says 'he's too mentally incapable to have done it and this is sibling rivaly that got out of hand. Mom counters with Mich etective then tells them that Josh and arron have also been arrested. they also finally agreed to the cops version of events. Josh was the lookout. Arron told them a therorectical how-to of the killing. Michael's parents don't believe the cops, for sure now.
To insure the confession is accurate, the cops tape all the sessions. Taping works both ways. stephanie is about 10
With a coerced confession, and with being tried as adults, all three boys are now in what one could call the ultimate 'deep shit'. and they are off to superior court.
At one point, mom comes in and asks Michael how was school? as the new term had just begun. His reply: Well, I didin't have to tell anyone about my summer vacation"
ultimately, the case gets dismissed without prejudice (which means the case ca be reopened any time) but with a 40-page report stating why the cops think the boys are guilty, they just can't prove it. All the parents, of course Steven & Sharon Crowe file civin suits.... BUT thank god for sexliesandvideotape!!! That is what saves these kids in the end in their battle for the truth
In the end, on 15 May 2002, the CA State Atty gGen office charged Richard Tulte with the murder of little Steph crowe and completely exonerating Joshua Treadway, Aaron Houser, and Michael Crowe in Stephanie Crowe's death At the time this film was done, on completion of production, The Crowe's lawsuit against the Escondido ploice dept along w the DAs office and others involved in the investigation, is still pending.
For those who would like to pursue the actual case, here are a few follow-up links: