THE BOB CRANE MURDER CASE PART ONE

Prosecutors in March 1989 declined to file charges, declaring that an investigation had revealed "strong evidence that the victim may not have been telling the truth." But they reconsidered last year, after the girl's friend--then 14--told a Scottsdale police detective investigating the Crane murder that Carpenter had fondled her, too.

The specter of a long prison term persuaded Carpenter to accept a sweetheart plea bargain that demanded no prison time and that will allow misdemeanor instead of felony treatment.

Carpenter knows he won't be so fortunate if a trial jury convicts him of killing Bob Crane.

@rule:
@body:It is an hour after Judge Gregory Martin has ordered Carpenter to stand trial on a charge of first-degree murder. For the first time since the start of the preliminary hearing, Carpenter looks exhausted. Things had gone well enough for the defense at the hearing that some observers speculated Martin would dismiss the case.

But finding probable cause is far less rigorous than the reasonable-doubt standard that holds sway in criminal trials.

Martin noted that "it would not be appropriate to comment on whether the evidence as presented at this hearing would be sufficient to . . . convict beyond a reasonable doubt." Some considered that a statement to prosecutor Myrna Parker about how close Martin had been to tossing out the case.

Such nuances mean little to Carpenter right now. He leans back in the passenger seat of his parked rental car, takes off his eyeglasses and closes his tired eyes. He knows his future is utterly uncertain.

"I didn't kill the son of a bitch," Carpenter says after several minutes. "He was my friend.

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