By Monica Alonzo
By Stephen Lemons
By Jason P. Woodbury
By Dulce Paloma Baltazar Pedraza
By Ray Stern
By Pete Kotz
By Monica Alonzo
By New Times
Dean and Borkenhagen wanted to arrest Carpenter on the spot for first-degree murder. But Maricopa County Attorney Chuck Hyder wouldn't authorize it.
"In my opinion, they weren't even close to having enough for us to make a case," recalls Hyder, now an assistant United States Attorney. "As far as I knew, you had a little blood in a car--they didn't know whose for sure. Motive was lacking, and so was physical evidence."
The Scottsdale investigators ignored Carpenter's request for a polygraph or other "truth" test. Almost 15 years later, Ron Dean has a curious explanation for why he didn't call Carpenter's bluff in 1978.
"I believe you have to know two or three things more than the bad guy does," Dean claims. "Otherwise, he'll beat you. We wanted to know a few more things before we put John on the machine. There wasn't enough out there yet to play truth or consequences."
Carpenter flew back to California by himself. But Scottsdale was hot on his trail and he knew it.
In a tape-recorded telephone conversation with Bob Crane Jr., possibly on July 10, Carpenter said: "They say that there was blood on my car . . . a very uncommon type. This is bullshit. Boy, they're scratching my back hard, and I'm the one that's trying to help. If your dad had any best friend or whatever you want to call it. . . ."
"It was you," Crane Jr. interrupted. "I guess they're waiting for you to just break down or something."
To this day, Ron Dean says, he is sure Carpenter was ready to confess.
"He was trying to tell me he did it," Dean says, "but he was playing games. It was, 'Catch me if you can.' It was almost like he was in a play or something. He puts himself in the third person. He's watched those guys like Dawson and Crane and he wants to be them. He's a real case."
On July 12, Dean and Borkenhagen popped up unannounced again at Carpenter's Inglewood apartment. He agreed to meet yet again with them a few days later at an Inglewood police substation.
The investigators had their last shot at John Carpenter on the evening of July 14, 1978. By now, the thin wall of civility that had marked most of their meetings had cracked.
Carpenter finally brought the mutual animus out into the open.
"When you sit across from me and accuse me of killing my best friend, one of my best friends. . . ." he said.
"Well, I'm still thinking that you did," Dean spit back at him.
"Then, fine, I'm not going to say another word. I'm sorry."
"What do you mean, you're sorry? You're sorry you killed him, are you? Or do you think he deserved it? Why don't you tell me about that? What happened in Scottsdale, Arizona, to cause you to kill Bob Crane? Let's hear about it."
Carpenter said nothing.
Borkenhagen tried a slightly different tack: "You know that at this time, we don't have enough to arrest you or we'd arrest you. . . . But it's getting close and it's going to happen."
Carpenter nodded. "Thank you," he said. "Can I leave now?"
"Certainly," the detective replied.
Carpenter stepped out of the police station into the cool, California night. His home was about three miles away. He walked there, he says, in a daze.
Almost 14 years later, police arrested him for murder.