By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
It was none other than Bill Denney, the television sportscaster. With a great deal of nonchalance, Denney sauntered up the center aisle of Judge Norman D. Hall's courtroom. He took his seat in the witness chair.
Murray Miller, the loquacious defense attorney, suppressed a cough.
"Will you state your name?" assistant attorney general Warren Granville asked.
"I'm Bill Denney."
"And what do you do for a living?"
"I'm on TV," Denney said. He grinned over toward the jury box. Several of the jurors grinned back.
Denney seemed every bit as relaxed and in control on the witness stand as when he offers those incisive nightly remarks about the world of sports for the television audience. The jurors were at attention now. To them Denney was the familiar and friendly face who reads the football, basketball and baseball scores to them from their television screens. The realization that this well-known personality was actually going to be speaking to them obviously energized the members of the entire jury panel. Several jurors looked at each other and smiled.
Prosecutor Granville, however, was extremely serious. Denney was going to be an extremely critical witness. Because of his celebrity, everything he said would be remembered by the jurors.
"How long have you lived in the Valley?" prosecutor Granville asked.
"Fifty-nine years," Denney said, grinning over at the jury again. It was uncanny. Life was imitating art.
Denney was every bit as cheerful on the witness stand as he is on the nightly news predicting that the Phoenix Cardinals are about to become a winning team.
"How do you know Max Dunlap?" Granville asked.
"I went to school with Max," Denney said. He then added that they have met only twice since leaving North High School more than 40 years ago.
In 1985, they met at an Arabian horse show in Scottsdale. They were both accompanied by their wives at the time and the meeting, according to Denney's recollection, lasted about 15 minutes.
"What did you talk about?" Granville asked.
Denney said he had told Dunlap he was convinced of Dunlap's innocence and felt he was getting a dirty deal.
Dunlap leaned forward in his chair, suppressing a smile.
As a television performer, Denney understands that perception is everything in life.
He recalled telling Dunlap that he could not understand why Dunlap always seemed to be in the company of Jimmy Robison every time he appeared on television.
"Max told me the only time he ever met Robison was in jail," Denney said. He grinned. As far as Denney was concerned, that seemed to settle the entire matter.
But Granville was on a serious mission here. The weakest point in Dunlap's alibi has always been his explanation for showing up with $5,000 in a bag to give John Harvey Adamson after the bombing.
Dunlap has said that a mysterious stranger came to his home at 7 a.m. and asked him to bring the money to a bank and change the money into small bills and deliver it.
"If you know Max," his friends say, "that's the kind of guy he is. If you ask him to do a favor, he'll always do it."
The prosecution maintains the money was the payoff for bombing Bolles' car.
And now, years later, no less a personage than Bill Denney appears with an account from Dunlap's own mouth explaining why he brought the money to Adamson. "And then," Granville said, "you asked Max why he changed the bills to smaller denominations and delivered them?"
At this point, Denney became uncomfortable. "I remembered," he began, "or I disremembered, Max telling me he had done so because Kemper Marley asked him. What I did was create Max's answer out of my own mind."
Being a celebrity, Denney apparently often feels it is his responsibility to make pronouncements on various public issues. And since he is in the business of what is essentially idle chitchat, it's not entirely necessary that any of these pronouncements be based on hard evidence.
So it came to pass that in 1991, Denney was sitting in Jordan's restaurant on Central Avenue.
He spotted John Sellers, who had been the chief police investigator in the Bolles murder, heading toward the cash register. Denney also remembered Sellers from the detective's early days as a bike racer.
Denney called him over and a conversation ensued.
"I said to Sellers that I felt Max Dunlap was not guilty. That's when I misspoke."
Granville spoke quietly:
"And you told Sellers how Dunlap had told you that the reason he brought the money was because Marley asked him to?"
Denney's face turned rueful. It was an expression he might adopt if compelled to announce that his great pal, Cardinals coach Joe Bugel, had been fired by Denney's other misunderstood acquaintance, Billy Bidwill.
What Denney didn't realize was that he had filled in the last piece to the puzzle. He was the one who could provide the missing link in the case. Denney didn't understand the importance of what to him had been an offhand remark until he received a visit from George Weiss, an investigator from the Attorney General's Office, a short time later.