Crime Reporter's Notebook

Key figure in Bolles murder case takes secrets to his grave

Weisz, among most others, never could quite figure out Neal Roberts. I remember the frustration Weisz would express over the incessant riddles that Roberts would invent, teasing and cajoling his eager listeners, playing his natural role as the man somehow in the middle.

I spoke with Roberts three or four times over the years, always briefly, cordially and without getting more than a benign morsel of information. I recall the last time we spoke, maybe four or five years ago. To my surprise, he answered the phone at a business that prepared personal-bankruptcy petitions.

I instantly recognized his voice--a kind of Arizona slick hick--haughty patrician meets easy twang. Roberts was slurring his words, and it was before noon. I knew he'd recently served a few months in jail on an aggravated drunken-driving charge. I also knew he had been a longtime alcoholic.

"Neal Roberts?" I asked him.
"Yes, it is," he said, not missing a beat.
I asked him if he remembered me.

"Sure do, sir," Roberts replied. "You're the guy who used to call me all the time about Bolles. Interesting case. Anything going on with it?"

"Not that I know of," I told him, adding it was about the last thing in the world I planned to write about in the future.

Then he died.

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