The Bob Crane Murder
I was never a Hogan's Heroes' fan. It is much more slap stick comedy than I tend to enjoy. However, the story of Bob Crane's murder falls right into my fascinations with both true crime and Hollywood. While brushing up on this case, I was reminded of a few other Hollywood crimes (although the Crane case did not take place in California, let alone Hollywood), many of which have been unsolved. But in my tradition of blogging about similar cases I will get to some of those, for now it's about Bob Crane.
On June 29, 1978 Bob's body was found in an apartment in Scottsdale, Arizona, he was renting while doing a dinner theater play called "Beginner's Luck" by his co-star Victoria Berry, around noon. According to Berry she had an "appointment" with Bob and that when he did not answer her knocks she found the door unlocked and entered the apartment.
Bob Crane was found in his bed with his skull crushed in and a cord wrapped around his neck. Blood covered the room. Berry called the police and the investigation began. Some will argue that the case as lost at this moment. Apparently there were not a lot of murders in this area at the time and there did not appear to be a homicide unit to handle the case.
Upon inspecting the area it was soon believed that robbery was not a motive. There was money in his wallet and nothing of value seemed to be missing. It was believed that because there was no evidence of forced entry that the murder must have known Bob Crane. It was believed fairly early that a camera tri-pod was missing and it was quickly speculated to be the murder weapon.
Like all murder cases the first people to look at were those associated with Bob. This became, or at least should become, the first problem for investigators. Of course the first person interviewed was Victoria Berry since she discovered his body. Other obvious people that needed to be interviewed would have included Bob's wife. It was widely known that they were separated but I am uncertain if actual an actual divorced had been filed.
Patricia Olsen (aka Sigrid Valdis) was Bob's second wife. "Patti" and Bob met on the set of Hogan's Heroes and within a short time Bob filed for divorce from his first wife, Ann, who he had been married to for 20 years and had three children. Patti and Bob married in 1970. There was much speculation when it came to Patti. Some reports say that she had gone to Scottsdale the day before Bob was murdered to reconcile. Other reports say that Bob and Patti talked on the phone the night before and had argued.
Another suspect that was zeroed in on very early and to which in my opinion blinded the investigators was John Carpenter. Carpenter was a good friend of Bob's and had traveled extensively with him, including to Scottsdale but had returned to California the morning he was killed, prior to him being found.
Carpenter and Crane had been introduced to each other by another Hogan's Heroes co-star, Richard Dawson (think Family Feud). Carpenter was all but one of the early pioneers in the video tape industry. One thing the three men had in common was their love of women, and lots of them. It was this "secret" that came out after Bob's death. More than 50 video tapes were found in Bob's apartment showing him in sexual situations with various women and it was determined that Carpenter was often present also, if not participating.
I will get back to Carpenter and their relationship in a minute but i want to take this time to entertain the fact that this should have opened up the door to suspects to investigators. It was later determined... or possibly rumored, that many of the women may not have known they were being taped. It was also determined that many of the women may have been married and I would gander to guess many more may have had what they considered boyfriends. To Bob's family this behavior was no surprise but to the general public it was. It appears though that other than the fact that Bob's sexual antics were brought to the public eye that it was never really an avenue that was investigated by the police. It was rumored that Bob's sexual fetish had been years in the making and there were rumors he had even had a penal implant. One of his sons later denied this, but then again that son has always appeared shady to me. Seems he and his mother, Patti, wanted to cash in on the tragedy in any way they could.
It truly appears they focused in on Carpenter. Like many high profile cases, many things that were sent out as fact were in fact never proven or proven to be rumors. That however never stopped the speculation that went on. The medical examiner at the time stated he believed that the blows to Bob's head had to have been made by a man and that because they saw no forced entry it was someone he knew. When the body was found both the front door and the sliding glass back door were unlocked. Unlocked doors do not need forced.
One of the first things that investigators stated did not sit well with them with Carpenter was that while they were interviewing Victoria Berry at the apartment, at the crime scene, Carpenter called twice. He was told that the police were there (they even spoke) and that there was an "incident" but he did not ask any question. Investigators thought this was odd. Being odd does not make you a murderer.
It was alleged (I am unsure who this initially came from) that the night prior to his death Bob was going to break off his friendship with Carpenter. A waitress at a bar indicated she thought they looked "stressed" when she waited on them but this is about as far as the rumor went. This speculation, that was never proven, was used to provide a motive for Carpenter. The theory was that Bob had decided to get help for his sex addiction (and possibly return to his first wife, although again, a speculation) and that in order to do so his friendship with Carpenter would have to end. Investigators theorized that Carpenter was angry by this because he had also obtained several women by hanging on the coat tails of Crane.
Investigators also found it unusual the issue of Carpenter flying back to California that morning before Bob's body was found. I found no evidence to dispute Carpenter's claims that this trip was already planned prior to the murder and that Bob knew he was leaving that day. That does not mean Carpenter could not have killed him and then went to California but leaving in and of itself did not appear suspicious.
Investigators then obtained the records of the car that Carpenter had rented while in Arizona and had it processed. There were a few small specks of blood found. In 1978 DNA was not available and they could only blood type it. It was reported to be Type B, Bob's type, and that only 10% of the population has this blood type. However, in 1978 none of this constituted as being enough evidence and Carpenter was not charged.
Crane was laid to rest while it seems his children and his soon to be ex wife argued and was given a fairly generic headstone with just his name and his years of birth and death.
In 1990 the case was reopened. DNA was now available. However, the samples in the car were not sufficient for testing. However, Carpenter was arrested and charged with murder. The only "evidence" that they had in 1990 that they did not supposedly have in 1978 was a picture of the inside of the rental car that investigators claimed was brain matter. The "matter" had not been preserved and was not seen by anyone in 1978... so you be the judge. By this time also it had been speculated that the murder weapon, which was never found, had been a camera tripod that was missing from Bob's apartment. Pretty convenient since camera's and video were right up Carpenter's alley. Carpenter went to trial in 1994 and was acquitted of all charges.
While he was acquitted of murder Carpenter did have a mark on his record. Around 1993 he pled no contest to the sexual fondling of a 10 year old girl, and it was indicated there was more than one. His plea agreement left him with no jail time and went down as a misdemeanor instead of a felony.
John Carpenter died September 4, 1998, always maintaining his innocence although the speculation had all but ruined his life.
After the trial Bob's estranged wife, Patti, had his body moved to a different cemetery and was given an elaborate tombstone in which she had her name engraved too... remember... they were getting divorced and fought constantly. She died around 2006 and was entombed next to Bob. I do not recall the exact inscription but it was something like "together forever." Yeah, that is what you want.... to be buried next to a woman you despised just before you died.
So the case has never been solved. End of story right?? Wrong. In my research I found an article written in 2010 that stated the case had been reopened and reexamined. The "head examiner" was not stated by name, and was only given that title. At any rate this "head examiner" in my opinion needed his own head examined. He determined that Bob Crane's death was not murder but suicide by hammer. He admitted that it would have been a long and painful death,but not out of the question. I, myself, did not give the idea much thought other than believing the man to be an idiot. However, it was pointed out to me that no hammer was found. So somehow the man bashed in his own skull (when there was no evidence of this being something he considered or in his behavior) and yet the hammer somehow floated off into never never land.... Yeah... OK!
Reality of it is that no-one will ever truly know who murdered Bob Crane. Maybe it was Carpenter... maybe it wasn't. My gut tells me it wasn't. They surely did not have the evidence and I am uncertain how it made it to trial. But, I just do not see a motive for Carpenter. Many have speculated that his wife, Patti, may have been involved. She did presumably inherit things considering they were not officially divorced. Others have speculated that it was a spouse or boyfriend of one of the many women Bob fooled around with. I simply do not think we will ever know.