THE BOB CRANE MURDER CASE PART THREE

AFTER MORE THAN A DECADE, PROSECUTORS THOUGHT THEY HAD A SMIKING GUN. BUT THE EVIDENCE THEY'VE BUILT THEIR CASE ON IS TAINTED.

But neither Little nor Bingham made mention of the crucial photo in separate reports of their reinvestigation.

In an internal memo written in June 1981, Little said he and Bingham had uncovered no new evidence against John Carpenter.

"No physical evidence has been found thus far that would definitely link him to the homicide," he wrote.

Little raised an intriguing theory at the end of his internal report.
"It is possible," he wrote June 22, 1981, "that the homicide was committed by a person totally unknown to the police. Considering the victim's proclivity for 'picking up' women, it is conceivable that the victim's death may have resulted from such an action."
The Crane sex angle long had fascinated many in law enforcement, even those not involved in the case. Most of the attorneys from the Major Felony unit of the County Attorney's Office had viewed copies of Crane's homemade porno tapes at one time or another, according to police reports.

Ed Campion, an investigator at the office, told a fellow investigator in 1990 that, at one time, he sealed the tapes to keep prosecutors at bay.

After the 1981 review failed to break new ground, the Crane case seemed relegated to the status of an unsolved classic.

Scottsdale lieutenant Dean retired in 1988, the same year a Scottsdale police spokesperson called the Crane case "technically closed." Dean took with him copies of the Crane case file, including crime-scene photographs--not the tissue-speck photo, however. Since then, he and retired Scottsdale cop Dennis Borkenhagen have worked with a San Francisco writer on a book explaining why they think John Carpenter is guilty.

In 1988, Rick Romley won election to a four-year term as Maricopa County attorney. Romley, an astute judge of cases with public-relations potential, had no aversion to having his office reopen the dormant case.

@rule:
@body:Jim Raines was known as a "book guy" during his years as a homicide detective with the Phoenix Police Department, an ace at putting together charts that linked a case's connections.

He wasn't remembered as especially skillful at street work--interviewing witnesses and tracking down leads that veered from the prevailing thinking about a case. Raines was remembered as having a huge ego--a reputation not easy to earn in the hotshot homicide unit. But none of the detectives who spoke to New Times remembered dishonesty on his part.

That is important in light of what happened shortly after Raines went to work as an investigator for the County Attorney's Office in June 1990, about a year after retiring from the Phoenix Police Department.

By this time, Rick Romley and his top aides had decided to reopen the Crane case. Raines' first assignment was the same as that of Dean and Borkenhagen, Little and Bingham and others before him: Find enough evidence to take Crane's murderer to trial.

To get him up to speed, Scottsdale detective Barry Vassall briefed Raines and prosecutor Myrna Parker about the case. Vassall displayed color slides of Crane's apartment, but none of John Carpenter's rental car.

A few days after the briefing, Raines went to the third floor of the county court building where the County Attorney's Office stores files. He soon spotted a box marked "Crane Homicide" containing three notebook binders. The notebooks held police reports, news clippings and photographs.

The 21 color photographs of John Carpenter's rental car included close-ups of blood smears and streaks on the inside passenger door. But Raines was most interested in a photo nobody had taken note of before.

"A small portion of unidentified material appears on the vinyl section of the inside of the right passenger's door," he wrote in a report. "This material appears to possibly be tissue. The status of the substance is unknown at this time."
Raines took the photograph to Dr. Heinz Karnitschnig, then Maricopa County's chief medical examiner. Dr. K, as he is called, studied it under a microscope and concluded it was consistent with human adipose tissue, or fat.

The newly formed Crane team was filled with excitement. Its members knew how important Dr. K's testimony could be in putting John Carpenter behind bars.

Prosecutor Myrna Parker's troubles, however, were just beginning.
@rule:
@body:A few weeks after Jim Raines stepped out of the storage closet with the "new" evidence, the Crane team learned some painful facts about the Department of Public Safety:

It didn't have the speck of tissue itself.
It couldn't find any written records that noted presence of tissue on the inside passenger door of Carpenter's rental car.

It didn't have negatives of its 21 photos of the car, which would have put to rest suspicions that the speck photo had been manufactured.

It had destroyed its reports on the murder in 1988.
Those discoveries set into motion a months-long wild-goose chase for someone--anyone--who might be able to remember what happened at DPS in 1978.

The Crane team started with Doug Ferguson, a former DPS print examiner working in the same capacity at the Phoenix Police Department. Ferguson had been at DPS in 1978 when Carpenter's rental car was towed in for an examination.

Ferguson's account would change several times over the next few years. But in his first interview with investigators in July 1990, he only recalled seeing the blood marks on the inside of Carpenter's passenger door. At that time, he said, he had called in DPS criminalist Bruce Bergstrom.

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