by Patrick H. Moore

The list of radio and television personalities who have had their lives cut short by murder includes Bob Crane, the incredibly popular Los Angeles morning radio personality, circa 1960, and the star of “Hogan’s Heroes.” Crane was bludgeoned to death in a Scottsdale, Arizona hotel room in 1978, a crime that remains unsolved to this day.

According to Wikipedia:

hoganCrane began his career as a disc jockey in New York and Connecticut before moving to Los Angeles where he hosted the number-one rated morning show. In the early 1960s, he moved into acting. Crane is best known for his performance as Colonel Robert E. Hogan in the CBS sitcom Hogan’s Heroes. The series aired from 1965 to 1971, and Crane received two Primetime Emmy Award nominations for his work on the series.

After Hogan’s Heroes ended, Crane’s career declined. He became frustrated with the few roles he was being offered and began doing dinner theater. In 1975, he returned to television in the NBC series The Bob Crane Show. The series received poor ratings and was canceled after 13 weeks.

While on tour for his play Beginner’s Luck in June 1978, Crane was found bludgeoned to death in his Scottsdale apartment, a murder that remains officially unsolved.

showWhile starring as Colonel Hogan, Crane was introduced to John Henry Carpenter, a regional sales manager for Sony Electronics, who had many high end clients. The two men struck up a friendship and began drinking together at bars. As a celebrity, Crane attracted women with relative ease and was soon introducing Carpenter as his manager. Before long, they began videotaping their sexual encounters. Although Crane’s son Robert later claimed “that all of the women were aware of the videotaping and consented to it,” this is highly debatable. In any event, over the years, Carpenter, who later became national sales manager at Akai, “arranged his business trips to coincide with Crane’s dinner theater touring schedule so that the two could continue seducing and videotaping women. At some point, however, the friendship began to deteriorate.”

cranedeadIn June 1978, Crane was living in the Winfield Place Apartments in Scottsdale, Arizona while appearing in Beginner’s Luck at the Windmill Dinner Theatre. On the afternoon of June 29 Crane’s co-star Victoria Ann Berry found his body in his apartment after he failed to show up for a lunch meeting. Crane had been bludgeoned to death with a weapon that was never found, though investigators believed it to be a camera tripod. An electrical cord had been tied around his neck.

The Murder Investigation:

Right from the start, Crane’s estranged friend John Henry Carpenter was a prime suspect. An episode of A&E’s Cold Case Files reports that the “police officers who arrived at the scene of the crime noted that Carpenter called the apartment several times and did not seem surprised that the police were there, which raised suspicions.” Several blood smears that matched Crane’s blood type were found in Carpenter’s rental car. DNA testing, of course, was not available in 1978 and Maricopa County Attorney Charles F. Hyder declined to file charges based on what he considered to be insufficient evidence.

olderThe Maricopa County Attorney re-opened Crane’s murder case in 1990. The investigators reexamined and retested the evidence found in June 1978. This was in the early days of DNA testing and although the blood found in Carpenter’s rental car was tested, the results were inconclusive. A detective working the case, Jim Raines, “discovered an evidence photograph of the car’s interior that appeared to show a piece of brain tissue.” By this point, the blood and tissue samples which had been found in Carpenter’s car the day after Crane’s murder had been lost “but an Arizona judge ruled that the new evidence was admissible.” Carpenter was arrested and charged with Crane’s murder in June of 1992.

The Trial

Carpenter’s trial was delayed until 1994. At the proceedings, Crane’s son Robert testified that:

“in the weeks before his father’s death, Crane had repeatedly expressed a desire to sever his friendship with Carpenter. Carpenter had become, “a hanger-on,” he said, and “a nuisance to the point of being obnoxious”. The night before his death, Crane reportedly called Carpenter and ended their friendship.

Predictably, Carpenter’s defense attorneys attacked the prosecution’s case as circumstantial and inconclusive. They, no doubt fallaciously, “denied the claim that Carpenter and Crane were on bad terms just before the slaying, and they labeled the determination that a camera tripod was the murder weapon as sheer speculation, based on Carpenter’s occupation.”  Displaying convincing logic, however, they disputed the claim that the rediscovered photo showed brain tissue, pointing out that the authorities “did not have the tissue itself.”

cuteIn what was perhaps most damaging to the prosecution, the defense was allowed to introduce as evidence that “Crane had been videotaped and photographed in compromising sexual positions with numerous women.” This, of course, implied that either a jealous person or someone fearing blackmail could well have been the killer.

Based on this and the other evidence, Carpenter was found not guilty. He maintained his innocence until his death on September 4, 1998 and Crane’s murder remains officially unsolved.

cranfamIn 2002, “Crane’s life and murder were depicted in the film Auto Focus, directed by Paul Schrader and starring Greg Kinnear as Crane.” The film was based on Robert Graysmith’s book, The Murder of Bob Crane: Who Killed the Star of Hogan’s Heroes?, portrayed Crane “as a happily married, church-going family man and popular Los Angeles disc jockey who suddenly becomes a Hollywood celebrity, and subsequently declines into sex addiction.”

There is, of course, a moral to this story which goes something like this:

graveIf, given the opportunity to bed an endless array of beautiful and exciting women, and if you lack the self-control to “just say no,” it is strongly recommended that you do not videotape the evidence. This compulsion to record one’s misdeeds is, of course, a modern phenomenon, and would appear to stem from a combination of prurient fascination, the desire to parade one’s conquests, and, perhaps, a measure of underlying guilt leading to what is ultimately a public confession.

 

 

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