THE BOB CRANE MURDER CASE PART ONE

Authorities allege the tissue came from Crane's bludgeoned head, and that it stuck to the murder weapon. The weapon, which investigators surmise was a camera tripod, has never been found. Carpenter took the tripod with him as he fled, prosecutors speculate, leaving blood and the speck of tissue on his interior passenger door.

But the Crane case has enormous problems from the prosecution's standpoint. It is rife with police misconduct, including the destruction of the crucial speck of tissue itself and the failure to interview valid suspects other than Carpenter (see next week's story).

Because of the bad police work and the lack of an apparent motive, the odds are great, most courthouse observers agree, that a jury will acquit Carpenter at trial, now scheduled for later this year. Employers, neighbors and even jilted ex-lovers describe John Carpenter as a gentleman, with the accent on "gentle." Police and prosecutors call him a manipulative hedonist whose sole aim in life is to please himself.

Carpenter hasn't spoken with a reporter before, except in two brief, lawyer-orchestrated interviews. But in hours of interviews with New Times over the course of several months, this previously shadowy figure has told the story of his complicated, fascinating life.

"I don't go around and kill my pals," Carpenter says, carefully, precisely and with no particular accent of note. "I played around a lot, balled a lot of women, and I've made mistakes that hurt people close to me. I'm no saint. But I never even had a fight with Bob, goddammit. He was my friend. And he was the goose who laid the golden egg for me, in terms of meeting ladies."
Whether Carpenter is convicted or set free, the truth of who killed Bob Crane--whether it was Carpenter or someone else--will remain a tantalizing mystery.

@rule:
@body:It is early March of this year, and the prosecution has almost completed its presentation at John Carpenter's preliminary hearing. Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Gregory Martin has adjourned the proceedings, and Carpenter is ready to fly home to California for a long weekend.

Carpenter has been out on bond--his house is the collateral--since Christmas Eve. Carpenter and longtime friend Mark Dawson have checked out of their rooms at a cheap downtown motel on West Van Buren.

It's fitting Dawson is here, since his father introduced Crane and Carpenter in the mid-1960s. Dawson's dad is Richard Dawson, of Family Feud and Hogan's Heroes fame. His mother was Diana Dors, the British version of Marilyn Monroe.

To Mark Dawson, a documentary filmmaker now in his early 30s who seems to have escaped the perils of a Hollywood upbringing, being with Carpenter in Arizona seems the right thing to do.

"He's in the jam of his life, and it's time to pay him back a little for his friendship," Dawson says, as he and Carpenter prepare to board the airplane for Los Angeles. "I have never seen anything of the side of him that Arizona is trying to portray--this murderous monster."
Dawson says he wants to do a documentary film on the Crane case when all is said and done. The preliminary hearing, at which Judge Martin is to decide whether probable cause exists that Carpenter murdered Crane, is providing Dawson with a firsthand look at the state's case.

At Los Angeles International Airport, Dawson leaves with his wife, Cathy, while Carpenter waits for his wife, Diana, to come by. She soon pulls in and warmly greets her husband of 38 years, a period that included a 13-year separation beginning in the mid-1960s.

Though Carpenter has telephoned his wife every night from his Phoenix motel room, she wants an in-person account. Originally, she had planned to accompany her husband to Arizona, but the couple's shrinking finances and her fragile emotional state dictated otherwise.

The last year has taken its toll on Diana Carpenter: Upbeat by nature, she's often depressed and nervous these days. Though she says she knows in her heart her husband is innocent, she assumes the worst--that Arizona prosecutors will somehow finagle a conviction and lock him up forever.

In sprawling Torrance, a suburb south of Los Angeles, Diana Carpenter pulls into the tidy subdivision where the couple has lived since 1990. The couple quickly made friends with their new neighbors, many of whom adorned their homes and trees with yellow ribbons after Carpenter was released from jail. "Not bad for an Indian," he says, chuckling as he gestures at his neatly kept, two-story brick home. Though Carpenter insists his profile resembles the Indian on the old buffalo nickel, strangers often are surprised to learn he is three-quarters Native American: His mother was Iroquois and his father was of Spanish and Native American descent.

The interior of Carpenter's comfortable home contains few hints of his heritage. A "God Bless America" rug hangs on a living-room wall. There are shelves filled with videotapes of old movies. And there are well-defined "his" and "hers" areas.

His is a study with a powerful computer that satisfies Carpenter's need for order and organization. Hers is an upstairs room filled with dolls that look eerily lifelike.

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