TRYING TO BE A HERO

"But only Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley was shrewd enough to piece together the missing pieces--and officially link Crane's buddy, John Henry Carpenter, to the bloody killings."
Shrewd?
Three tabloids--the National Enquirer, the Star and the Globe--all carried ringing endorsements of Romley's actions in bringing about the arrest.

To begin with, this is a low-rent, pornographic case with appeal only to the prurient-minded. Crane's big enthusiasm in life was bedding down as many women as possible and taking films of them during their bedroom frolics.

To do this he had to carry along cameras, tripods and fresh film wherever he went. Bob Crane was a man with a pleasing personality who was in reality a one-man pornographic-film company.

When his body was found with its head beaten to a pulp, the Scottsdale police found film in which many different women friends appeared as co-stars.

This is what gives the case its impact with the general public. And this, of course, is why it becomes automatic front-page news for the supermarket tabloids. What our county attorney is doing by going ahead with the case is to titillate thousands of potential voters.

So let us admit that Romley is a shrewd fellow who understands what interests the customers in cheap barrooms. His persistence in thrusting his persona before the media isn't admirable, but it is certainly effective. Who can remember a public figure so shameless?

Romley must feel his career as county prosecutor hangs by a thread. So he uses the Crane case to help him maneuver around the rocky shoals that the AzScam case has become for him.

Remember, it was AzScam that was going to be Romley's ticket to Congress or the U.S. Attorney General's Office. Now AzScam has become a millstone. For one thing, Romley has created serious enemies in all areas of the political arena. Joe Stedino, his star witness in AzScam, has become an embarrassment and a danger. He is an unpredictable time bomb. Romley has been forced to fire George Mount, his chief investigator in the case. This came about after it was learned Mount ordered Stedino to lie under questioning. Romley himself was hauled before Judge Michael Ryan after he blurted to an open meeting of Republican party members remarks about a plea-bargain offer made by defendant Senator Carolyn Walker. Romley was called to the witness stand and dressed down publicly by Judge Ryan. The judge warned Romley he'd be sent to jail if he opened his mouth in public again about the AzScam case before the trial concluded.

Said Judge Ryan: "If I have to bring you in here again, make sure you bring your toothbrush."

And it still remains undetermined who leaked secret grand jury information to Stedino. Was it Romley in another runaway spate of braggadocio?

So, desperate for some favorable publicity, Romley reaches back to the ancient Crane case.

Romley now claims the evidence they have been holding all these years has now been restudied and that a legitimate case has been put together.

This is amazing. It is also highly unlikely. Cops always think they have an excellent case. County attorneys are supposed to hold them in check and protect the innocent.

This case was in shambles because of sloppy investigation by the Scottsdale police. Two previous county attorneys wisely refused to prosecute for lack of evidence.

Former county coroner Dr. Heinz Karnitschnig remembers the case well. When asked about the new evidence Romley claims to have, Karnitschnig snorted.

"I know what he's talking about," Dr. K said. "I never thought there was anything to it." It is terribly significant that when Romley sought expert scientific opinion, he by-passed Dr. Karnitschnig and went to men in Texas and New Mexico for help. Let's look back for a moment. Think about the time Crane met his death. At the end of a 49-year life span, Crane was reduced to traveling about the country in his own comedy show. It was an uninspired laugher that played to audiences curious to see what Crane looked like in real life.

Often it drew only small audiences. Crane had been told his run in Scottsdale was going to be shortened by a full week. People just weren't showing up. Crane's career had hit its peak during the six seasons, ending in 1971, that Hogan's Heroes ran on television.

Crane's blood-splattered body was found in bed. He had been killed by a blow from a blunt instrument. The murder weapon has never been found.

At Romley's orders, police in Los Angeles have now arrested one of Crane's longtime hangers-on, John Carpenter, 64. Crane and Carpenter had dinner together hours before Crane was killed.

Police claim that bloodstains containing Crane's blood type were found on the door of the rental car Carpenter drove the morning after the murder.

They have arrested Carpenter, who will be brought here for a preliminary hearing.

Years ago, Carpenter offered to take a lie-detector test in the case and was turned down. County attorneys Chuck Hyder and Tom Collins were adamant in refusing to go to trial against Carpenter for lack of evidence. They had excellent reasons. There is nothing to link Carpenter to the room where the crime was committed. There is nothing to link his actions to the time it happened. Even Romley must understand he has no case. But the horror of it all would be that an aggressive prosecutor might somehow be able to convince a jury that Carpenter is guilty.

How does one begin to defend oneself in a case like this after all that time?

MEANWHILE, BACK IN THE LOBBY "THE DEAL" ... v6-17-92

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