By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
Victoria Berry had been touring for months with Bob Crane in Beginner's Luck when the play landed in Scottsdale in June 1978. The Australia-born actress--then 28--had been seeking stardom for years, to no avail.
As always, Hollywood had more than enough busty blondes, and Berry's efforts largely failed, despite some close brushes with success. She auditioned for a plum role on Charlie's Angels after Farrah Fawcett-Majors quit, but Cheryl Ladd won out. She was set to play Marilyn Monroe in a movie to be called Saint Marilyn, but the deal fell through.
Her biggest break in show business probably came when she was cast as the go-go dancer in the credits of Starsky and Hutch.
In the late 1970s, Berry hit the dinner-theatre circuit to pay the bills and to work on her acting skills. The gig with Crane was easy enough, and unlike some of his other colleagues, she got along fine with him.
Berry says her manager and future husband, Alan Wells, had introduced her to the star of Hogan's Heroes years earlier. A former actor himself--he had a bit part in the original Cape Fear--Wells had at one time owned a Los Angeles strip club, the Classic Cat, a favored Crane haunt.
On the evening of June 28, 1978, Berry sat in the Windmill Dinner Theatre audience with John Carpenter during the long stretches of Beginner's Luck that she wasn't onstage. She knew the black-haired man as Bob Crane's best friend, a pleasant guy from California. After the show, Berry saw the two friends walking together to Crane's car. Crane hollered at her not to forget their appointment the following day.
Berry arrived at the Winfield Apartments, 7430 East Chaparral in Scottsdale, at about 2 the next afternoon to meet with Crane. A police report about her presence there includes the line, "Her business there was to videotape an act of hers in order to observe the act and get some pointers from the victim."
Right after Crane's murder, Berry told police her relationship with the actor had been "brother-sister," but it had been somewhat more than that: She later volunteered to detectives that she'd slept with Crane twice.
Bob Crane's propensity for making pornographic videos of his sexual exploits might lead one to assume what "act" the police report was referring to (see last week's story). But a Scottsdale police transcript shows Berry told detectives she had gone to Crane's apartment not for sex, but to dub a new voice track over a scene from the play.
June 29, 1978, was a steamy, early summer day in the Valley, 106 degrees at its hottest. Berry was wearing short-shorts and a tee shirt. She knocked on the door of Apartment 132-A, but Crane didn't answer. She tried the door and found it unlocked. She stepped into the two-bedroom apartment and called out Crane's name. No answer. The place was dark.
Thinking Crane might be by the swimming pool, Berry pulled back a closed curtain to look through a sliding-glass door. Still no luck. She walked slowly into Crane's bedroom. In interviews with police and New Times, Berry described what she saw in the bed:
"At first, I thought it was a girl with long, dark hair, because all the blood had turned real dark. I thought, 'Oh, Bob's got a girl here. Now, where's Bob?' . . . I thought, 'Well, she's done something to herself. Bob has gone to get help.' At that time, I recognized blood . . . it was like a strange feeling."
Berry decided to take a closer look at what was in the bed--she had started to realize it was a man.
"My first instincts were, I don't know why, but I thought it was John Carpenter. And the whole wall was covered from one end to the other with blood. And I just sort of stood there and I was numb. He was curled up in a fetus position, on his side, and he had a cord tied around his neck in a bow."
Berry ran out of the apartment for help. Paulette Kasieta was the first Scottsdale police officer to arrive and secure the crime scene. (Oddly, Kasieta is now an investigator for the Public Defender's Office and is working on behalf of murder defendant John Carpenter.)
Scottsdale police lieutenant Ron Dean arrived at about 3 p.m. and took over. No one was yet certain whose body was in the bed.
Victoria Berry was in the kitchen writing out a statement for police at 3:15 p.m. when the telephone in the apartment rang. Dean instructed her to answer it, but not to say a word about the murder victim in the other room.
The caller was John Carpenter, who told Berry he was back in Los Angeles. In a November 1990 interview with police, Berry said Carpenter had sounded "strange" during their short conversation. But more recently, she put a less sinister spin on it.
"It was pleasant, and there was nothing really predominant," she testified at a hearing to determine if Carpenter should stand trial for murdering Crane.