Doris Duke’s Newport Restoration Foundation continues to deny new evidence that the death of gay designer Eduardo Tirella was murder.

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May 16th. By Peter Lance. Celebrating it’s 175th anniversary, The Newport Daily News, which played a key role in unraveling the mystery behind Eduardo Tirella’s death, continues its tradition of dogged local journalism by covering the controversy over The Newport Restoration Foundation’s refusal to set the record straight. Proof positive of the crucial role of local reporting.

 

BACKGROUND ON THE STORY

For more than six weeks, Mark Thompson, Executive Director of The NRF (below) ignored the wishes of Donna Lohmeyer, Eduardo’s niece after she wrote to him asking the Foundation to remove an Exhibit at Rough Point, home of the late billionairess  that misrepresents her uncle’s death. In her letter Ms. Lohmeyer wrote that she was “shocked at the utter indifference the NRF has shown.”

 

Sprawled across an entire wall and seen by thousands of tourists since 2019, the Exhibit contains five material misstatements of fact, including the false allegation that Tirella’s violent death was an “Accident.”

On Monday, April 26th, Mr. Thompson received MY LETTER (below) 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.

 

In my letter with 19 attachments [AF, G-J, K, & L-S] I underscore “the big lie” that the NRF continues to maintain in that Exhibit including the false assertion that Duke settled with Tirella’s five sisters and three brothers for his wrongful, death.

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 Monday THE ADVOCATE  broke the story of the ongoing EXHIBIT controversy nationally.

 

As first reported in the piece below, written by Sean Flynn, for my former paper, The Newport Daily News and republished in Rhode Island’s state paper, The Providence Journal, the NRF has refused to address the findings in my book and continues to perpetrate Chief Radice’s corrupt “accident” theory of the crash.

By Sean Flynn March 29th: After billionaire heiress Doris Duke killed Eduardo Tirella with her car on Oct. 7th, 1966, his extended family was devastated, including his mother and a close sister, Anita, who never recovered from it. “Eduardo’s death was such a blow to our family, I can’t tell you how much,” Donna Lohmeyer, Anita’s daughter and Tirella’s neice, told The Daily News last week. ‘It had far reaching effects.’

Although Newport police called it ‘an unfortunate accident,’ at the time, a new book, HOMICIDE AT ROUGH POINT by Newport native Peter Lance, presents an accumulation of compelling evidence that Duke intentionally murdered Tirella at her Bellevue Avenue estate.

Based on some of the extensive findings in the 438 page book, Lohmeyer sent the Newport Restoration foundation A LETTER last week asking the NRF to correct factual errors in its Exhibit called ‘The Accident at the Rough Point Gates.'”

SEE THE FULL STORY BELOW Meanwhile you can…

Order the book on amazon  Apple Books,  Barnes & Noble, Google Books, Books-A-Million, Thriftbooks, BookDepository,McNally-Jackson, Bookshop.org, abebooks  & Walmart

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DOWNLOAD A BONUS PDF with 110 images and WATCH THE TRAILER on YOUTUBE

MORE COVERAGE

 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 lists 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 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 and Bill Bartholomew, whose wildly successful podcast rocks Rhode Island, has done two programs with me: On August 4th after the story hit in VF and on February 23rd, the pub date for the book.

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,” and as to that false conclusion…

THE COVER-UP CONTINUES

For unknown reasons, The Newport Restoration Foundation (NRF) continues to endorse the false story that the death of Eduardo Tirella was “an accident,” despite overwhelming evidence in my book to the contrary. To further this cover-up, the front gates of the estate have been hidden and the Reliquary of Saint Ursula has been removed.

The shot below is of the front gates at Rough Point as they stood for more than 50 years after their repair following Eduardo’s death.  The photo below was taken in 2020, nine months after the gates were damaged when a truck struck them during an event on the estate in the fall of 2019.

Even though 2020 marked the 20th anniversary of Rough Point as a home museum, with many events planned by the NRF to mark that anniversary, the Foundation chose to use the gate above, which one might expect to find in a pasture on Duke Farms, to mark the entrance to the historic estate. And as late as November, 2020, just days before the estate was to close for the winter, the once august gates — which are a reminder of Eduardo’s death — were photographed in a section of the grounds hidden under a tarp.

After receipt of Donna Lohmeyer’s letter, the NRF now contends that the gates have not yet been reinstalled because of a $100,000 insurance claim. Further, the Reliquary of St. Ursula, a key artifact in my investigation, which had stood on a table at the bottom of the Grand Staircase at Rough Point for decades, was removed by the NRF after I focused on its significance.

The black + white inventory card below from The Rubenstein Library at Duke University, traces the origin of Doris’s’ purchase of the Reliquary in October 1995. It took nearly a year to restore and Eduardo Tirella and Duke were on their way to pick it up from The Blue Cat, the antiques shop of John Perkins Brown when she killed him; making that artifact a crucial element in the investigation surrounding his death. But it also runs counter to the NRF’s claim (as set forth in that Exhibit) that on the night of Eduardo’s death, he and Doris where “on their way to dinner.”

We know that The Reliquary was brought to Rough Point by Perkins Brown himself after Eduardo was killed. In a hand written note, that card indicates it was installed in the Great Hall at Rough Point by the Stairs in August, 1986.

If so, why did the NRF wait until January of 2020, when my piece for Vanity Fair  (citing The Reliquary) was scheduled for publication, to remove it from public view?

In a statement on March 25th, 2021 the NRF asserted that the Reliquary was removed for “planned conservation… and cleaning” — work they claimed — was not completed until “December of 2020.”

Yet in a video posted on YouTube on April 28th, 2020 Alex Allardt, the NRF’s conservation consultant said that the Reliquary “Has been on display for at least 20 years,” begging several questions:

Why did it take the NRF more than two decades to clean it and why was it removed for 11 months during the entire 20th anniversary season? Did it really take nearly a year to clean?”

The NRF posted a second YouTube video on November 3rd, noting that, “Alex Allardt… is in the process of cleaning & conserving the reliquary,” but that video was shot at the same time as the first video more than six months earlier.

Why would a $75 million dollar non-profit foundation, based on preserving history, behave this way? To learn the answer, read the details in CHAPTER 34 

In A PRESS STATEMENT released on February 18th, 2021 the NRF contended that it “…does not have the capacity nor resources to conduct a separate investigation of the accident…” and embraced the 1966 Newport PD’s “accident” story, even though my book proves that the then police Chief Joseph A, Radice colluded with Duke’s lawyers to create A FABRICATED TRANSCRIPT of an “interrogation” that never took place in order to clear her. For the details, Download CHAPTER 7

As to its “capacity” and “resources,” The NRF’s IRS 990 tax return for 2018 (filed on July 25th 2019) lists fair market assets of $75,816,493.00 with income of $5,860,706.00. That raises another question: if a non-profit, whose very raison d’être is scholarly research and analysis, can’t verify my findings, then who can?

The NRF certainly has the means. That IRS 990, a public document available on Guidestar.org shows that in 2018, the Foundation, which enjoys a tax-exempt status, paid its top five employees and board members, salaries and benefits of $731,315.00 including Mark Thompson, the Executive Director whose expense account was $41,562.00. It’s time for the NRF to stop hiding behind the walls of Rough Point and come clean.

Now the full truth can be told in HOMICIDE AT ROUGH POINT, available now in Hardcover, Trade Paperback, Kindle, and Audible editions.

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