Getting away with murder twice: STERN CRIME highlights HOMICIDE, the untold story behind billionaire Doris Duke’s 1966 intentional killing of war hero and Renaissance Man Eduardo Tirella.

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May 27th, 2022 By Peter Lance STERN CRIME, the wildly popular German true crime magazine has published my Duke investigation story in its 40th edition.

Watch the YouTube Video. Book Authority rates it No. 1 in the “5 Best Crime Biography Books of All Time.” HOMICIDE AT ROUGH POINT has earned Eighty-five 5-star reviews on Amazon. Meanwhile…

THE NEWPORT POLICE COVER-UP CONTINUES

In their 3rd statement in 6 days, City of Newport officials tried to explain the finding of cold case Det. Jacque Wuest who closed her 5 month probe into the 1966 death of Eduardo Tirella November 18th, by asserting that there was “no new evidence that would change the previous conclusion” that his homicide was “an unfortunate accident.”

When some City Council members called that conclusion “an embarrassment,” City Manager, Joseph Nicholson Jr., issued a second statement Nov. 23rd attempting to clean it up.

WHAT PROMPTED THE NEW INVESTIGATION

On August 5th, I reported in Vanity Fair that Bob Walker, the former paperboy for Rough Point had emerged as the only known living witness to Tirella’s murder.

In this video of my interview with him July 4th, compiled by VF’s editors, he tells how he not only heard the events leading up to Tirella’s death but confronted Doris Duke herself moments later, after she had emerged from the crashed Dodge Polara station wagon and cold bloodedly yelled at him to leave the scene.

After reading my book, he came forward to Det, Wuest July 2nd and she reopened the investigation for the first time in more than half a century. This TIMELINE traces the tortuous trajectory of her 139 day probe which ended November 18th with her finding that is “no evidence that warrants further review.”

The next day The Newport Daily News covered the story in a piece by reporter Sean Flynn and now, with this new statement, The City has once again embraced Chief Radice’s verdict that the billionairess, who died in 1993 at the age of 80, had no criminal culpability in Eduardo’s murder.

In early August the reopening of the case made international headlines when Mark Pratt reported the story for The Associated Press and it was published in thousands of print, online and media outlets worldwide.

My book, which came out in late February, contains 60 pages of annotations proving that the notoriously possessive and jealous billionairess, who escaped criminal charges in 1963 when she stabbed her common law husband with a butcher knife, killed Eduardo in a jealous rage outside the gates of her English manor-style estate on Newport’s “Millionaire’s Row.”

The recently discovered photo below (taken by Ed Quigley) shows Newport PD Sgt. Fred Newton working the crash site at lower right. As I learned, he had actually solved the case within hours of Tirella’s death, but had to excise the truth from his official report on the orders of Chief Radice.

THE MURDEROUS QUID PRO QUO

Eight days after murdering Tirella, the heiress began giving of tens of thousands of dollars to various Newport institutions, including Newport Hospital where she had been hidden away from State investigators on the night of Eduardo’s homicide by the Assistant County Medical Examiner whom she had just hired as her personal physician. In effect, the one official bound by law to determine the victim’s cause of death, had gone on Miss Duke’s payroll within hours of his killing.

On Aug. 2nd, Det. Wuest sent me this email acknowledging that she’d reopened the case, that it would not be ignored and asking my help to “bring justice for Eduardo’s family.”

Then, two weeks later in this Aug. 19th email, she wrote that she had been instructed by Lt. Corey Huck, her supervisor, not to contact me.

Sensing that the NPD was now obstructing her probe and a cover-up may be in the works, I began compiling the TIMELINE

It documents, how, on Sept. 15th, Det. Wuest made an unannounced visit to Mr. Walker’s home, at which time she told him that she’d been promoted to Sergeant and would soon depart on a three week vacation. Further, after finding him “credible” in her July 2nd interview, she now asked the former paperboy whether he had effectively created his story after reading HOMICIDE AT ROUGH POINT. As Mr. Walker related her visit to me, he sensed that she was now backtracking.

On November 9th, with the case in its fifth month and no apparent end in sight, I sent The TIMELINE to The City Manager and members of The City Council, asking them to exercise some oversight over the Police Dept. with respect to Det. Wuest’s investigation.

Accompanying my letter to them was this email I’d sent sent her Sept, 22nd. Highlighted in red, it underscored the compelling evidence, documented in my findings, that Miss Duke had acted with intent.

The next day The Associated Press filed a story covering Det. Wuest’s response that was published in The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, The Miami Herald, The Denver Gazette, The San Francisco Chronicle, Newsweek, The Houston Chronicle, and 100’s of international online, print and broadcast media outlets as far east as The Taiwan News.

Just after it ran, the City of Newport produced a third statement taking the position that, “We simply do not believe that there is any way to determine what was going on in the mind of a woman during an incident that took place more than half a century ago.” I responded to that assertion in an email to City Manager Nicholson and The Newport City Council. 

THE EVIDENCE OF INTENTIONAL MURDER

While the mindset of Doris Duke was never the standard of proof for the new investigation, the initial position of Det Wuest that there was “no new evidence,” flies in the face of massive documentation in HOMICIDE AT ROUGH POINT: that on the late afternoon of October 7th, the richest woman in America, crushed Tirella to death under the wheels of a two ton station wagon moments after he’d told her he was leaving her employ.

CHAPTERS 32-33 of the book show that Miss Duke committed six intentional acts leading directly to Tirella’s death. As reported in CHAPTERS 6-7, she then conspired with Newport’s Police Chief, Joseph A. Radice, to produce a three page fabricated transcript of an interrogation that never took place. That Q&A closed the case, giving Radice the cover he needed to rule that Tirella’s violent death was the result of “an unfortunate accident.”

In effect, the Newport PD, in 1966, was allowing the tobacco, aluminum and energy heiress to get away with murder. Now 55 years later, in City Manager Nicholson’s statement, the legendary Rhode Island resort city is embracing that finding again.

On Aug. 2nd, Det. Wuest sent me this email acknowledging that she’d reopened the case, that it would not be ignored and asking my help to “bring justice for Eduardo’s family.”

Then, two weeks later in this Aug. 19th email, she wrote that she had been instructed by Lt. Corey Huck, her supervisor, not to contact me.

Sensing that the NPD was now obstructing her probe and a cover-up may be in the works, I began compiling the TIMELINE

It documents, how, on Sept. 15th, Det. Wuest made an unannounced visit to Mr. Walker’s home, at which time she told him that she’d been promoted to Sergeant and would soon depart on a three week vacation. Further, after finding him “credible” in her July 2nd interview, she now asked the former paperboy whether he had effectively created his story after reading HOMICIDE AT ROUGH POINT. As Mr. Walker related her visit to me, he sensed that she was now backtracking.

On November 9th, with the case in its fifth month and no apparent end in sight, I sent The TIMELINE to The City Manager and members of The City Council, asking them to exercise some oversight over the Police Dept. with respect to Det. Wuest’s investigation.

Accompanying my letter to them was this email I’d sent sent her Sept, 22nd. Highlighted in red, it underscored the compelling evidence, documented in my findings, that Miss Duke had acted with intent.

It’s unknown at this point if any intervention by City Council members prompted Det. Wuest’s email Nov. 18th, but one thing is clear — in the face of probative evidence that Doris Duke killed Eduardo Tirella with intent and that the Newport PD conspired with her attorneys to cover it up — the NPD’s current Chief, Gary Silva is now endorsing the same false narrative of Chief Radice in 1966 as reported by The Newport Daily News.

The day after his interview with Det. Wuest Mr. Walker met me during a book signing at The Brenton Hotel in Newport. After vetting him for several hours and finding his story highly credible,  I interviewed him on July 4th outside the Bellevue Avenue estate.

On August 19th, more than six weeks after Det. Wuest’s investigation began, she sent me that email assuring me that “there is no reason to fear a ‘cover-up’ is going on.” She also pledged that her ongoing probe into Eduardo’s death, would continue unimpeded.

Still, on November 18th, for unknown reasons, she closed the case, reaffirming Chief Radice’s initial verdict, which City Manager Nicholson has now embraced. As reported in CHAPTER 10 of my book, Radice, who had Mafia ties, retired seven months after closing the Duke case and bought a pair of condos in Florida. His false conclusion that Eduardo had been “crushed against the gates” of Rough Point made the front page of The Newport Daily News, the morning after Eduardo’s death.

But Sgt. Newton, the NPD’s principal accident investigator, had told patrolman Edward Angel, the first officer on the scene, that as Eduardo was driving out of the estate with Miss Duke in the passenger seat, he got out to open the heavy wrought iron gates.

Miss Duke, then slid behind the wheel, disengaged the parking brake, slammed down on the accelerator, causing gouges in the gravel driveway and roared forward. At that point, Eduardo turned and (to save his life) he jumped up on the hood of the Dodge Polara, breaking his right hip.

The billionairess then drove the two-ton wagon through the gates, and hesitated; stopping 12 feet into Bellevue Avenue, at which time Eduardo, rolled off the hood and onto the street; injured but still alive.

According to Sergeant Newton, Miss Duke then drove forward, dragging him across the street where he came to rest, fatally injured, as the wagon crashed against a tree. The photo below, taken by Ed Quigley, shows Tirella’s blood under the rear axle of the wagon after his lifeless body was extricated.

No blood was found on the gates, but Officer Angel, who was also interviewed by Det. Wuest, discovered blood, skin and hair on Bellevue Avenue at the very location, Sgt. Newton told him the victim had rolled off the hood. At the time, Officer Angel believed that this location had been the initial Point of Impact, but he later learned from Sgt. Newton that Mr. Tirella and gone up on the hood of the wagon before Miss Duke crashed through the gates.

Thus, effectively there were two points of impact: inside the gates and on the street.

In the photo above taken by Jerry Taylor, the morning after the homicide, all of the damage to the heavy wrought iron gates was to the lower rungs, whereas the Autopsy Report showed that, except for his fractured hip, all of Eduardo’s fatal injuries were to his upper body and brain, the direct result of being “dragged under the vehicle.” He was never “crushed against the gates,” as Chief Radice told the press.The long missing official Death Certificate, which I also found, confirms that.

In an August interview with me for my second Vanity Fair piece Officer Angel said, “If the former paperboy’s account is credible it could very well mean that [Doris Duke] was covering up her actions and was pretty deliberate about it. She had a history of losing her temper over the years. So she would have been capable of that kind of act; first in killing him and then immediately thereafter in the cover-up. If [the] testimony is to be believed, this changes everything… It certainly throws a whole new light on the case.”

THE FIRST POLICE COVER-UP IN 1966

On Oct. 9th, 1966, two days after she murdered Eduardo, Doris Duke sat in her bedroom at Rough Point seen below in a photo by Adam Fithers. German shepherds flanked her as she was briefly questioned by Lt. Frank H. Walsh and Det. George Watts of The Newport PD, in the presence of her business manager and New York lawyer. It was the only account of the death that she gave to police.

This never-before-seen transcript, uncovered during my investigation, shows that Lt. Walsh asked only four questions. On the basis of that paper-thin Q+A with Duke, Chief Radice, initially closed the case, then briefly reopened it after being criticized by the RI Attorney General at the time for rushing to judgement.

At that point, the Chief conspired with Miss Duke’s Rhode Island attorney Aram Arabian to create that fabricated three page transcript of an alleged “interrogation” at Rough Point, the next day, October 11th, 1966. It was nothing more than a “script” of a Q&A written by The Newport PD, that never took place. But once Doris Duke and Arabian signed off on it, the case was officially closed.

WORLDWIDE MEDIA REACTION
TO THE PAPERBOY’S ACCOUNT

On September 2nd, Sam Dangremond filed a Newport story for TOWN AND COUNTRY magazine, citing the findings in HOMICIDE AT ROUGH POINT.

As the AP story broke from coast to coast in The Boston Globe and The Seattle Times,  The Daily Beast soon filed its own piece. There was 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 Advocate.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 night of,” at the southeast corner of Ledge Road.

Sean Flynn followed up with a page-one story August 9th in The Providence Journal  Newport This Week had a front page piece on Aug. 12th, the same day that veteran UK reporter Richard Mineards who’s based in Montecito, California, led his weekly column with it in The Montecito Journal.  

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

THE MOST RECENT COVERAGE

By Sana Pashankar The Duke University Chronicle October 18th 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’s discussion of HOMICIDE on the DukeWeek podcast. Meanwhile…

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 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 Eighty-three 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

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

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 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 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. That same day,  ADVOCATE.com  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.

But on page 3 of that fabricated three page transcript of a purported “interrogation” of Miss Duke on October 11th, 1966, 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.

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 Doris 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, who does? As we now know The Newport PD has abandoned that inquiry.

MR. THOMPSON RESIGNS

In my April 26th letter, 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 visited Newport, and cite any factual assertion in my book, relating to Eduardo’s death, that he can demonstrate to be incorrect.

He never replied. but on September 1st The NRF announced Mr. Thompson’s resignation.

NATIONAL & INTERNATIONAL MEDIA:

March 24th, 2021 Diane Anderson-Minshall, the CEO of Pride Media, reviewed HOMICIDE AT ROUGH POINT in ADVOCATE.com

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

March 25th 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 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.  CLICK 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.

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.

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

ADDITIONAL COVERAGE

The initial media release on HOMICIDE was picked up by The Associated Press. ADVOCATE.com, 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.

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