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The latter was corroborated by Bob Crane Jr., who told police, "There was an indication before Phoenix, just in a passing conversation with my father, that Carpenter coming into town . . . was getting to be just a bit of a pain in the ass. . . . My dad expressed that he just didn't need Carpenter kind of hanging around him anymore."
Crane Jr. also raised a possible bisexual-gone-mad scenario. He said his dad had told him several years earlier that Carpenter had admitted to at least one homosexual experience. (Carpenter denies this.)
"For all I know, he could have been in love with my father," Crane Jr. said.
But evidence of true animosity between Carpenter and Crane was scarce. A transcript of the police interview with the Bobby McGee's waitress, for example, reveals that Scottsdale detectives fed the word "tense" to her.
Carpenter "looked like he was kind of upset," waitress Linda Robertson told them.
"How would you describe it, tense toward each other?" an investigator asked her.
"Yes, tense is a good word," she replied. "Cause it wasn't a loud fight, it was nothing other people noticed."
That was true enough. A bartender at the restaurant told detectives Crane had "acted very nice toward [Carpenter] and did not seem upset." Nor did the bartender have anything negative to say about Carpenter's behavior.
Physical evidence against Carpenter also was hard to come by. Investigators became excited when a maid at the Sunburst hotel, where he had been staying, said she'd found a bloody washcloth and pillowcase in Carpenter's room. But the maid hadn't preserved the bloody items and, more important, she was sure the same tenant had occupied the room at least one more day after she'd found them. If true, that eliminated Carpenter.
(A few months after the murder, a sheriff's deputy hypnotized the maid. Under hypnosis, she again repeated the information about the bloody washcloth and pillowcase. But she came up with the date June 24, four days before the Crane killing.)
Though Carpenter's motive remained elusive, investigators soon found solid proof of his opportunity to commit the murder. Their interest in Carpenter turned to obsession on the afternoon of June 30, a little more than a day after Carpenter returned home to Los Angeles.
That afternoon, Scottsdale police located the car Carpenter had rented for part of his four-day stay in Phoenix. Carpenter had checked in the car, a 1978 Chrysler Cordoba, at an Avis counter inside the Sunburst hotel.
Avis had sent the car to a Phoenix dealership, Lanker Chrysler-Plymouth, for repairs after Carpenter complained about its faulty electrical system. The car had broken down on its way to the shop and had to be towed in.
At Lanker, Scottsdale detective Darwin Barrie noticed what appeared to be a small amount of dried blood on the car's interior passenger side. He called his supervisor, Lieutenant Ron Dean. Dean arranged for a tow truck to take the car to the state Department of Public Safety compound in Phoenix for a scientific examination.
What happened at the DPS compound will be devastating to the chances for a successful prosecution of John Carpenter. Much of what occurred there remains the subject of buck-passing and finger-pointing, and may help acquit Carpenter at his trial later this year (see next week's story).
Even in 1978, the best evidence against Carpenter was weak. DPS criminologist Bruce Bergstrom determined the blood on Carpenter's passenger door was Type B--the same type as Crane's, found in only about one out of seven people. No one else whom police knew to have been in the car, including Carpenter, tested for that type.
DPS, however, couldn't prove the blood in the car was Crane's--just his type. Though they weren't at all sure why he would have killed his friend, the Scottsdale police had found their No. 1 suspect: John Carpenter.
@body:If John Carpenter killed Bob Crane, his behavior in the days after the murder proves he's a gutsy son of a gun.
He voluntarily returned from California to Arizona with police after they had told him he was their chief suspect. He volunteered to take a lie-detector test, to take sodium pentothal--better known as "truth serum"--to be hypnotized, anything, he told Scottsdale investigators, to help them find his friend's killer. He didn't contact an attorney.
Carpenter's story has remained essentially the same from the first time he spoke to police until his exclusive series of interviews with New Times. Together with police reports and interviews with other key players, Carpenter's account goes like this:
He flew to Phoenix on June 25 to spend four days with Crane and to conduct a little business for the Akai Corporation. Carpenter would often visit his friend of more than a decade on the road. Women were drawn to the still-popular Crane like fish to a worm, and Carpenter didn't seem to mind dallying with the leftovers.
Crane picked up Carpenter that day at Sky Harbor airport. On their way to Scottsdale, Carpenter says, the actor showed him a personal photo album of numerous naked women, including some he had met during his stint at the Windmill Dinner Theatre.