After New Probe, Same Conclusion Into Death of Heiress' Employee

Doris Duke ran him down accidentally, city finds
By Liz MacGahan,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 5, 2021 11:10 AM CDT
Updated Nov 24, 2021 2:03 AM CST
New Witness Emerges in 1966 Death of Heiress's Employee
Heiress Doris Duke attends a polo match on Feb. 24, 1950, in Cairo, Egypt.   (AP Photo/File)

Update: The death of one of Doris Duke's employees remains, officially, an accident after the city manager in Newport, Rhode Island, stood by the city police department's review of the 1966 case. That review determined, as the original police investigation had, that no "definitive motive or intent" can be ascribed to Duke in the death of Eduardo Tirella, the AP reports. The witness who recently came forward, spurring the new probe, calls the conclusion "absurd," saying that even in death, Duke "still wields a huge influence over the current City of Newport administration." Our original story from Aug. 5 follows:

An heiress killed her employee shortly after he quit, and the police called it an accident. Later, the heiress donated huge sacks of cash to revitalize the town, while the police chief retired and bought two Florida condos. Folks have long suspected that when Doris Duke ran over Eduardo Tirella in October 1966, it wasn't an accident. Now, a new witness has come forward and police have reopened the case, reports Peter Lance, who wrote a book about the events. In his latest piece in Vanity Fair, Lance says he was signing his new book, Homicide at Rough Point, last month when a Marine Corps veteran approached him with some new information. Bob Walker told Lance he was a paperboy in Newport, RI, and had been delivering a paper to Duke's mansion the day Tirella was killed. He heard the whole thing, and his story backs up the one previously pieced together by a police investigator.

The official version is that Tirella got out of the car to open a gate and Duke slid into the driver's seat to proceed through. That's when, she told police, the car "leaped forward" and ran Tirella down. What Walker says he heard was an impact, a scream, and then another impact. He pedaled his bike over to see what was going on and said he saw Duke, unharmed, blocking his view of the back of the car where Tirella was pinned. When he asked if she needed help, she yelled at him, "You better get the hell out of here!" Walker says he never told authorities his version of the story because his father was worried there'd be retribution. He did tell the story to a few friends over the years. Lance interviewed those people for his Vanity Fair piece. Walker's story matches an accident reconstruction done at the time by Sgt. Fred Newton of the Newport Police. But the chief at the time, Joseph A. Radice, the one who'd retired, waved those findings away. "The narrative that was accepted by the cops was not the narrative that I remembered," Walker told the AP. (More Doris Duke stories.)

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