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Museum updates description of car crash death at Doris Duke's Rough Point mansion

There's been a change at the Doris Duke Museum regarding the events of October 1966 and the death of the billionairess' art curator and friend Eduardo Tirella. (WJAR)
There's been a change at the Doris Duke Museum regarding the events of October 1966 and the death of the billionairess' art curator and friend Eduardo Tirella. (WJAR)
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The folks who run Doris Duke's mansion in Newport made changes to an exhibit viewed by some as a whitewash of an alleged murder there in 1966.

In author Peter Lance's book "Homicide at Rough Point," he concludes, based on two years of research and gathered evidence, Doris Duke intentionally ran over her art curator and friend Eduardo Tirella near the gates at her mansion in Newport in October 1966 because he was going to quit working for her, which would also effectively end their friendship.

Lance, in a Zoom interview from California this past winter, told NBC 10 News that "she stops, she hesitates for a moment, and Sgt. Newton believed Eduardo rolled off, and at that point he was still alive. That she decided to commit and she rolled over him, crushed him to death, and dragged him forty feet across Bellevue Avenue."

Eduardo Tirella's niece, Donna Lohmeyer, said she informed the Newport Restoration Foundation about inaccuracies in the exhibit and requested that they be corrected or removed. She said the exhibit about the death was false and disrespectful to her uncle.

Since Lance's book, released in February 2021, and the four-part series aired on NBC 10 News this past March, the exhibit has changed. The crash that killed Tirella is now called an "incident," not an "accident" and is four paragraphs not five.

But based on correspondence by Lance with the Newport Restoration Foundation, the conclusion is that even the text of the new exhibit does not go far enough.

It eliminates the claim the family settled with Duke, but there's no mention Duke was found criminally negligent in the 1971 civil trial. And Lance writes the pair wasn't going to dinner as remains in the new exhibit, but to pick up an antique artifact, the Reliquary of St. Ursula, key in the timeline of events that he states prove what happened was no accident.

An extended family that just took the tour of the mansion was asked their impressions.

Chris Fischer, visiting from Tuscon, said, "I think there's a lot more to the story than they're letting on."

William Fischer, from Lake Butler, Florida, said, "They can't brush it under the rug entirely in the fact that they can't make it disappear.”

Karen House, from Bowie, Maryland, said, "I don't know, can you forgive murder? It's kind of a -- that's a big question."

Neither Tirella's niece, nor the Newport Restoration Foundation, would comment.

A previous version of the story stated Tirella’s niece “threatened legal action against the Newport Restoration Foundation” if inaccuracies of the exhibit were not changed, when in reality, in Donna Lohmeyer’s strongly worded letter that appeared to imply legal action, she only stated she “informed them” and “requested that those (inaccuracies) be corrected or removed.”

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