The Duke University Chronicle reports on the findings in HOMICIDE AT ROUGH POINT and how, after 55 years, the Newport Police reopened the case into Doris Duke’s violent killing of Eduardo Tirella 55 years ago.

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Oct. 22nd, 2021 By Sana Pashankar, October 18th, 2021.

On October 7th, 1966, billionaire tobacco heiress Doris Duke was driving away from her mansion in Newport, R.I., when she crushed her longtime employee Eduardo Tirella with a two-ton station wagon.

“I hear the roar of a motor, the scream of a man, the crash of steel, the deacceleration of the motor, the man stops screaming, the motor roared again, the scream turned to horror ‘Noooooo,’ and then there was a secondary crash,” said Bob Walker, who said he was at the scene.

Duke was the only child of James Buchanan Duke, the founder of the American Tobacco Company. Tirella was Doris Duke’s art curator and close confidant.

After the incident, Duke claimed that her car had accidentally leaped forward when she released the parking brake, pinning Tirella at the iron gates and crushing him to death.

The local police stuck to that narrative: their report described Tirella’s death as an “unfortunate accident.” For decades, this official narrative remained untouched, despite rumors of murder. But new evidence now challenges that account.

In February of this year, journalist Peter Lance published “Homicide at Rough Point,” which draws on newly uncovered evidence, from police reports to photos of the crime scene, to argue that Duke killed Tirella “with intent.” CLICK HERE for the full story. CLICK HERE for Sana discussing HOMICIDE on the DukeWeek podcast.

THE NEWPORT PD’s PROBE CONTINUES

By Peter Lance. October 22nd 2021

It’s been 111 days since The Newport Police department opened an investigation into the truth behind the death of Eduardo Tirella, an art curator and designer crushed to death under the wheels of a two ton station wagon driven by tobacco and energy heiress Doris Duke outside the gates of her Bellevue Avenue estate on October 7th, 1966. For an overview PLAY THIS VIDEO.

To get some sense of what a Renaissance Man and war hero Eduardo was, Download Chapters 1, 2, 17, 30 & 31 of HOMICIDE AT ROUGH POINT.

The reassessment of the Newport PD’s initial conclusion that Tirella’s death was the result of an “unfortunate accident,” was prompted by the confession of Robert E. “Bob” Walker, Jr., now 68, who told police that as the 13 year old paperboy for Rough Point he not only heard the entire lead-up to Eduardo’s death, but moments later, he personally confronted the billionairess herself.

On July 2nd, Bob told the Newport PD’s cold case Detective Jacque Wuest, that he came forward only after he’d read details of the incident in HOMICIDE AT ROUGH POINT which dovetailed with his own memory. The next day he met me during a book signing at The Brenton Hotel on Newport’s waterfront and on July 4th I interviewed him outside the Bellevue Avenue estate.

On August 2nd, Det. Wuest sent me an email confirming that she’d reopened “the Duke case” and made it clear that her goal was to “bring justice to Eduardo and his family.” Recently the 22 year police veteran, who’s been promoted to Sergeant, emailed me that despite her new duties, her investigation into Eduardo’s death, would continue unimpeded. But, at this point, that remains to be seen.

THE WORLDWIDE HEADLINES

On August 5th, after confirming that he’d told the identical story to two Marine buddies and a number of other Newporters, as early as 1973, I filed a 4,500 word piece on VanityFair.com which included this VIDEO of my interview with Bob compiled by VF’s editors. Moments after the story broke it was covered by  The Associated Press where it soon went viral, picked up by more than 5,000 online, print and broadcast media outlets worldwide. This is a link toa pdf of the story. On September 2nd TOWN AND COUNTRY did a piece on Newport citing the findings in HOMICIDE AT ROUGH POINT.

On WJAR-10 RJ Heim covered this ground-breaking new development as the AP story broke from coast to coast in The Boston Globe and The Seattle TimesThe Daily Beast soon filed its own piece. This is the international coverage from The  Independent  and  The U.K. Daily Mail. Famed historian Michael Henry Adams who spoke at one of my signings at The Brenton Hotel, soon posted a brilliant analytical piece on the significance of Bob Walker’s findings at TheAdvocate.com

This drone video shot by Newport cinematographer Lowell Blackman, shows the proximity of Rough Point — the scene of the crime — to Bob Walker’s starting point on the southeast corner of Ledge Road.

With these links you can read my original 8,000 word piece in the July/August 2020 edition of VanityFair.com and published across 14 pages in the magazine.

Christian Winthrop, who was onto the Duke/Tirella story years ago, added an update on NEWPORT BUZZ. The Newport Daily News’s veteran reporter Sean Flynn followed up with a page one story August 9th in The Providence Journal and Newport This Week had a front page piece on Aug. 12th, the same day Richard Mineards led his column with the news in The Montecito Journal.  

THE NEWPORT BOOK TOUR

Throughout July I gave a series of talk’s in The Brenton’s second floor “Living Room. Wednesday July 14th featured  historian Adams and legendary Newport activist Pauline Perkins-Moyé. The previous Wednesday Bill Bartholomew did his third podcast with me from the “Living Room.”

You can listen to it here, then hear Bill’s wildly successful podcast that rocks Rhode Island in our two previous outings: On August 4th after the story hit VF and on February 23rd.

To find out why so many people are passionate about this book sample the Intro, Preface and the first two chapters.

MEANWHILE…

HOMICIDE AT ROUGH POINT has earned Seventy Four 5-star reviews on Amazon.com. Watch the YouTube Video.

You can order the book, now  available in four editions: Hardcover, Paperback, Kindle/Nook and Audible at: amazon, Apple Books, Barnes & Noble, Google, Books-A-Million, Thriftbooks, BookDepository, McNally-Jackson, Bookshop.org, abebooks, Walmart & Target DOWNLOAD A BONUS PDF

THE CONTINUING DISTORTION OF THE TRUTH
BY THE NEWPORT RESTORATION FOUNDATION 

On June 16th, The Providence Journal published a page-one story from Newport Daily News coverage in which Sean Flynn reported that after maintaining AN EXHIBIT at Rough Point, the home museum of controversial billionairess Doris Duke, which contained the false claim that her murder of gay designer Eduardo Tirella in 1966 was an “accident,” The Newport Restoration Foundation had changed it, describing Tirella’s death as “an incident.” They also removed the false assertion that Duke, the richest woman in America at the time of the homicide, “settled” a 1971 wrongful death case “with Tirella’s family” after she was found civilly liable. The initial EXHIBIT seen by thousands of tourists for more than two years, had been the object of controversy for months, generating local, state and national media coverage.

WJAR-TV correspondent RJ Heim did a followup to his Four Part Series in March.

The modified EXHIBIT, which still contains several misstatements of fact, was added to a wall-sized space at the end of the Rough Point Tour in April of 2019. It remained unchanged throughout the entire 2020 season, even though the initial findings of my investigation into Eduardo’s death published July 16th, 2020 in Vanity Fair, shattered the accident theory. The Exhibit remained intact when the estate was opened for the 2021 season on March 20th. Three days later, it became the subject of a complaint sent to Mark Thompson, Executive Director of The NRF (below) by Donna Lohmeyer, Eduardo’s niece, who wrote to him asking the Foundation to remove the Exhibit, which she said misrepresented her uncle’s death. In her letter Ms. Lohmeyer wrote that she was “shocked at the utter indifference the NRF has shown.”

On Monday, April 26th, Mr. Thompson received MY LETTER along with a copy of my new book, HOMICIDE AT ROUGH POINT which proves that Tirella was murdered by the possessive heiress just moments after he informed Duke that he was leaving her employ on the early evening of October 7th, 1966.

Diane Anderson-Minshall, CEO of PRIDE MEDIA which excerpted CHAPTER ONE of HOMICIDE in THE ADVOCATE, reviewed the book and interviewed me for its print magazine. On April 26th, THE ADVOCATE  broke the story of the ongoing EXHIBIT controversy nationally.

It was first reported in the piece below, written by Sean Flynn, for The Newport Daily News and republished in Rhode Island’s state paper, The Providence Journal. In the book, with pages from the official police report of Tirella’s homicide, I prove that the “accident” theory was fabricated by Newport Police Chief Joseph A. Radice who allowed Doris Duke to escape criminal charges for the murder. The broader story of The NRF’s cover-up of the full truth behind Eduardo’s death is contained in CHAPTER 34 of HOMICIDE.

On May 18th, Jim Gillis, a retired veteran reporter for The Daily News reviewed HOMICIDE calling it “a salute to community newspapers… in an industry that teeters more each year.”

THE MODIFIED EXHIBIT

While the NRF changed to “incident,” the previous false assertion that Eduardo’s death was the result of an “accident,” and while they removed, the false claim that Doris Duke “settled” the 1971 wrongful death case “with the Tirella family,” the Exhibit continues to contain multiple affirmative falsehoods.

A prime example is the assertion in paragraph two, that Doris Duke “was unfamiliar with the transmission” in the rented 1966 two-ton Dodge Polara station wagon, under which she dragged Eduardo Tirella’s body across Bellevue Avenue.

As reported for the first time in CHAPTER SEVEN of HOMICIDE, in order to close out the case, allowing Duke to escape criminal charges, the then police Chief Joseph A. Radice conspired with her lawyer to create an entirely fabricated three page transcript of a purported “interrogation” of Duke at Rough Point on October 11th, 1966. It was an alleged Q+A that never took place. Nonetheless, on page three of that transcript, which Chief Radice presented as the official record, the tobacco heiress is asked this question:

So, in that transcript, which Duke and her lawyer Aram Arabian signed off on, she admitted that she had no difficulty with the Avis wagon which she’d driven twice previously in the 24 hours before Eduardo’s death. That is prima facie evidence, uncovered in my investigation, which the Newport Restoration Foundation continues to ignore.

Modified or not, the ongoing use of this Exhibit, seen by thousands of visitors since April of 2019, continues to distort history and denigrate the memory of Duke’s victim. Its use is unbecoming of a non-profit Foundation which had a 2018 Fair Market Value of: $75,816,493, according to its IRS 990 tax return filed on July 25th, 2019.

In a statement issued to WJAR-TV on February 18th, 2021 the NRF claimed that it “does not have the capacity or resources to conduct a separate investigation” of my findings. The NRF’s stated mission is to “preserve, maintain, and interpret Aquidneck Island’s 18th- and early 19th-century architectural heritage.” A key component of that heritage is Doris Duke’s home museum. Many of the priceless works of art at Rough Point were curated by Eduardo Tirella, whose life ended outside its gates in 1966. So, it’s fair to ask: if a $75  million dollar Foundation doesn’t have the capacity or resources to confirm the truth behind his violent death, then who does?

As the author of HOMICIDE AT ROUGH POINT, a 438 page investigative book, the central findings of which were published in July, 2020 by Vanity Fair and have stood the test of outside scrutiny since then, I called upon Mark Thompson, the NRF’s Executive Director, to remove that entire wall-sized Exhibit so that continued visitors to Duke’s home museum aren’t misled about the facts. Further, I asked that he meet with me in July, when I visit Newport, and cite any factual assertion in my book, relating to Eduardo’s death, that he can demonstrate to be incorrect. He never replied.

LOCAL NATIONAL & INTERNATIONAL MEDIA:

 Frankie Boyer interviews Peter Lance on Biz Talk Radio

Kathi Wolfe reviews HOMICIDE in WASHINGTON BLADE: This is how she concludes it:

“When F. Scott Fitzgerald said the rich ‘are different from you and me,’ he was so on point! HOMICIDE AT ROUGH POINT is a captivating memoir of gumshoe journalism and an entertaining travelogue of Newport, where the rich and eccentric have lived since the American Revolutionary War. Above all, it is an arresting reminder: If you’re rich and powerful enough, you can cover-up anything – even murder.”

CRIME AUTHORITY listed HOMICIDE AT ROUGH POINT No. 1 in The 5 Best Crime Bio eBooks of All Time. See the list: For an short overview of the book visit: YouTube Or listen to an interview on WABC RADIO.

March 24th, 2021 By Diane Anderson-Minshall reviews HOMICIDE AT ROUGH POINT in    THE ADVOCATE: 

It was supposed to be one last goodbye for Eduardo Tirella, a onetime performer and popular milliner who hung with Frank Sinatra before becoming a talented decorator, art curator, and in middle age, a promising movie set designer. Tirella, a gay war hero and Italian-American (back when that was still considered “ethnic” in America) was on the cusp of Hollywood success at 42. A good friend of Sharon Tate, Richard Burton, and other actors, Tirella had just spent a decade curating art projects for the many estates of Doris Duke — then the richest woman in America.

But, having designed the sets of Elizabeth Taylor’s The Sandpiper and Tate’s Don’t Make Waves, Tirella was moving on from Duke’s employ. He’d arranged to join his partner, artist Edmund Kara, who sometimes worked alongside him, in California. Instead, on that fateful 1966 eve in Newport, R.I., Tirella’s goodbye became permanent. He ended up crushed under a Dodge Polara station wagon, having been pushed through giant iron gates, dragged 20 feet, and plowed into a tree. To say he was pulverized would not be an exaggeration.

No one leaves Doris Duke, it was said. Not even her designer. In Peter Lance’s meticulous book Homicide at Rough Point — which delves into Tirella’s 1966 death, the scant police investigation, subsequent lawsuits, and rumors of a cover-up — the former ABC News correspondent argues that Tirella knew telling Duke he was leaving could put him in danger. She had, after all, stabbed an ex with a butcher knife during an argument. But Tirella clearly hadn’t expected her to slide into the driver’s seat, run him down, and keep going until she rammed his body between two tons of steel and the trunk of a tree.

CLICK HERE for the full REVIEW. CLICK HERE for Diane’s Interview with Peter Lance.

March 25th By Reed Tucker. NY POST: FOX NEWS  The 1966 Dodge station wagon roared across the street in Newport, Rhode Island, smashing through a fence before coming to a stop against a tree, its front almost completely caved in. Locals and the police were on the scene quickly. They discovered a disoriented middle-aged woman bleeding from the mouth and yelling for “someone named Ed.” The woman stumbled to her feet and into a house across the street — a grand 30-room mansion along one of America’s most exclusive avenues — as she continued to search for her friend. The October 7, 1966, crash has always been dismissed as an “unfortunate accident.” But now, a new book claims the incident was much darker than that.  “Absolutely she intended to kill him,” says Peter Lance, whose book, Homicide at Rough Point is out now. CLICK for full story. CLICK for the print story.

March 20th By Matthew Wright for DAILY MAIL

Doris Duke, the fabulously wealthy tobacco heiress and socialite once dubbed ‘the richest girl in the world,’ got away with murder when she ran over her artistic director in 1966 and got police to cover up the misdeed – an author claims in his new book.

The October 7, 1966, crash in Newport, Rhode Island, that killed Eduardo Tirella and involved the heiress, daughter of American Tobacco Company founder James Duke, is covered in Peter Lance’s new book Homicide at Rough Point.’

“Absolutely she intended to kill him,” Lance, who grew up in Newport and worked as a journalist there, said to the New York Post. “He continued: “Newport is this strange kind of a place where everyone is connected to everyone else. One of the biggest legends in town was always that Doris Duke got away with murder. When I was a cub reporter, the town was buzzing with this rumor.”  Doris inherited her father’s massive fortune when he died in 1925, also acquiring the Newport estate – known as Rough Point. The heiress was notorious for her tense relationships and horrible treatment of service workers.

“She was a living Cruella de Vil,” the author asserted. “She was notoriously paranoid, stingy, hyper-jealous in her rages, incredibly troubled, driven by booze and barbiturates.”

Tirella, a gay man in his 40s, was one person who was troubled by the treatment he had been subjected to as Duke’s artistic director. He had worked for a decade refurbishing her houses and appraising antiques. By 1966, Tirella was ready to move on to Hollywood and was determined to make it to the West Coast.

The night before the crash, Tirella came back to Rough Point to tell friends he wanted to inform Duke of his departure in person. But the next day, staff overheard the pair in an intense exchange that ended with them heading to a meeting at 5pm.

The pair hopped into a Dodge station wagon, with Tirella driving the car down the driveway and to the gate on the estate. Tirella stopped approximately 12ft from the locked gate and put the car in park before heading to go open the gate.

It was then that Duke slid into the driver’s seat and released the parking brake, putting the car in drive and hitting the gas. The car sped into Tirella and through the gate before barreling across the street. It ended up crashing into a treeCLICK for the full story.

Screen PART ONE, PART TWO, PART THREE & PART FOUR of NBC 10’s series on HOMICIDE AT ROUGH POINT produced and reported by two-time Emmy-winning correspondent R.J. Heim.

THE STORY FIRST BROKE IN THE COMBINED July/August 2020 edition of  VANITY FAIR

VANITY FAIR ran HOMICIDE as the lead investigative piece across 14 pages in its July/August 2020 issue. It turned out to be one of the most read VF stories of the year. In fact, AppleNews+ called a special audio recording of the story, The Best True Crime Audio of 2o2o.

The VF piece got worldwide attention with coverage in The U.K. Daily Mail, and Out magazine.

ADDITIONAL COVERAGE

The initial media release on HOMICIDE was picked up by The Associated Press. THE ADVOCATE, one of the world’s most read LGBTQ+ publications excerpted CHAPTER ONE Then, on February 2oth, Ian Punnett devoted his entire three-hour broadcast of Coast to Coast Am to HOMICIDE AT ROUGH POINT.

If you turn the pages of HOMICIDE AT ROUGH POINT you’ll see that in addition to the true crime story of Doris Duke’s murder of Eduardo Tirella, the book is an uplifting memoir of growing up in one of the most unique small town’s on earth: Newport, RI. Many chapters on the rich history of The City By The Sea, intercut with the murder mystery which unravels as you turn the pages.

THE POLICE COVER UP

On Oct. 9th, 1966, two days after she crushed her longtime designer to death under the wheels of a two-ton station wagon, Duke sat in bed. German shepherds flanked her as she was questioned by Police Lt. Frank H. Walsh. (Adam Fithers photos)

 

The never-before-seen transcript at left, obtained in my investigation, shows that Walsh asked only four questions. On the basis of that paper-thin Q+A with Duke, police Chief Joseph Radice, closed the case, calling “an unfortunate accident.”

Order a HARDCOVER first edition of HOMICIDE signed by the author. Go to PayPal to get your personalized book now for $50.00 plus Tax and FedEx Shipping.




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