The author of a book with compelling evidence that billionaire heiress Doris Duke murdered a gay man, Eduardo Tirella, is demanding that the Newport Restoration Foundation remove an exhibit claiming otherwise.
Peter Lance, writer of Homicide at Rough Point, sent a copy of his book Monday to Mark Thompson, the foundation's executive director. An accompanying letter says a wall-sized placard at the Rough Point Museum in Newport, R.I., titled "The Accident at the Rough Point Gate" perpetuates the "big lie" that Tirella's killing was unintentional.
The Newport Restoration Foundation was founded by Duke two years after her car struck and killed Tirella, her friend and interior designer, in 1966. The exhibit was erected in April 2019. Since then, Lance has released his book containing two years worth of research providing evidence that Duke deliberately caused the crash. At the time of his death, Tirella had been planning to leave Duke for a burgeoning career as a set designer in California; instead, he was crushed under her station wagon and dragged 20 feet across her estate's lawn. Lance also published an essay in Vanity Fair and an excerpt in The Advocate on the subject.
Donna Lohmeyer, Tirella's niece, took particular issue with this line on the museum's sign: "In 1971, the Tirella family brought a civil suit against Doris Duke for damages and lost wages from Eduardo's death. After several days in court, Duke settled the case with the Tirella family."
Lohmeyer denied this description of events in an interview with The Newport Daily News. "It was a 10-day trial," she said. "Doris Duke was found criminally negligent and liable for his death. Then there was financial judgment bestowed on the family by the court."
In an email to the foundation's legal foundation, Lance urged the revision of the exhibition in order to "find some justice for Eduardo and some peace for his family." In his letter to Thompson, he wrote:
"As the caretaker of Doris Duke' s home, I would encourage you to admit the truth of what she did, outside the gates of Rough Point in the early evening of October 7, 1966. It was just moments after Eduardo had told her he was leaving her, when she turned a vehicle into a murder weapon and crossed into the perilous territory of intentional homicide."
In a previous interview with The Advocate, Lance contended the foundation and the town itself were complicit in a cover-up. "The town fathers in general adopted an almost obsequious solicitation of Doris after she began giving tens of thousands of dollars to the Cliff Walk Restoration Project and Newport Hospital where she was hidden from state investigators on the evening of the incident," Lance said. "Further, the Newport Restoration Foundation, which restored 70 colonial-era homes and helped turn Newport into a tourist mecca, was an extension of the murderous quid pro quo that helped Doris Duke escape intent-to-kill murder charges."
In March, Lohmeyer had sent a letter to the foundation with a similar request. Read the correspondences at PeterLance.com. See the exhibit in question, courtesy of Lance, below.