THE BOLLES TRIAL GOES INTO RERUNS
A man called and asked if I wanted an exclusive interview with Max Dunlap. The conditions were unusual. I would meet with Dunlap, but I was not to tell anyone that he had talked to me. This was in 1990, during the waning days of Bob Corbin's reign as Arizona's attorney general. I met with Dunlap at a construction firm on the west side. He was seated in the president's office when I was escorted in. The president and Dunlap had been high school pals at North High School. Dunlap, in fact, had been the young man voted most likely to succeed. Dunlap, dressed in jeans, stood to greet me.
"I hope you don't mind," he said, pleasantly, "but I'm going to have to pat you down."
I was amused. This was the same Max Dunlap who spent all that time sitting alone in a cell on death row in Florence for the Don Bolles murder.
Then, after being set free on appeal, the first thing Dunlap does when he encounters a reporter is to make sure the reporter isn't carrying a hidden tape recorder.
Dunlap had a compelling reason for wanting to talk. It was only weeks before the Republican primary election for attorney general between Grant Woods and Steve Twist.
Twist had been Bob Corbin's right-hand man for years. Dunlap had information that Twist was going to arrest him for the benefit of the television cameras just before the election, as a much-needed vote-getting device. There were other things Dunlap wanted me to know. First, he was broke. He was getting by only on the charity of friends and he was driving an old pickup truck.
Second, the charges that he had paid off Jimmy (The Plumber) Robison to keep his mouth shut in prison were not true.
Certainly, Dunlap had given Robison's girlfriend some money to live on, but that's what he would do for any old friend.
In this instance, Robison was the man who sat in a death-row cell not far from Dunlap's. He has been fingered by John Harvey Adamson as the man who actually detonated the bomb under Bolles' car.
It was Adamson who admitted putting the bomb under the car. But if anyone could be said to have pulled the trigger, it was Robison.
Dunlap showed up after the killing with large amounts of cash. But once again, Dunlap has insisted he was only doing a favor for a friend by delivering the money. It was something he would do for any old friend. It was not a payoff for murder.
@body:When it comes to friendship, the late Kemper Marley was the best pal Dunlap ever had. The old liquor baron and rancher once staked Dunlap to a $1 million loan. Then he told Dunlap not to bother paying it back. This is why prosecutors have always figured that Dunlap owed Marley a favor.
Bolles had written stories about Marley that were embarrassing enough to cause Marley to lose a seat on the state racing board.
Some say Dunlap hired Adamson and Robison to kill Bolles as an offering to Marley. This, however, is the kind of favor even Dunlap might find hard to do for an old friend.
Marley grew incensed because the Arizona Republic kept printing stories about his involvement in the Bolles murder.
Marley sued the Republic for libel. He couldn't prove he was libeled. Not too long before my meeting with Dunlap, I had gone to Marley's funeral. It was an elaborate affair, almost a state funeral. Even former senator Barry Goldwater, another old Marley pal, was there.
Dunlap was in the church that day, too. In fact, he told me he'd been instrumental in making the arrangements.
At the close of the sermon, they played the song made famous by Frank Sinatra, "My Way." It was the only time I've ever heard it played at a funeral.
During our meeting, I mentioned this to Dunlap.
He brightened up.
"That was my idea," he said. "When I mentioned it, the minister said it would be impossible to do in a church."
"I told him he'd better go along, because if he didn't, we'd just stand there in the church and sing it out loud ourselves."
Marley was the most powerful man in Arizona for a half-century. He was tough, generous, a contributor to charitable causes, and a tax dodger. At his death, he left millions to the University of Arizona so a building for the school of agriculture could be named in his honor. To their eternal disgrace, UofA officials accepted the money. If you did Marley a favor, he was likely to turn around and make you a millionaire. If, in the words of Don Corleone, you "did him a disservice," you might get blown to bits. Marley did a favor for Senator John McCain's father-in-law, Jim Hensley, back in 1948. Hensley had done him a great service.
Hensley took a fall in a liquor-violation case for Marley which resulted in a one-year jail term. When Hensley was ready to return to work, Marley gave him the Budweiser distributorship in Phoenix. He is now one of the richest men in the state.
Hensley had a pretty good lawyer in that case, too. His name was William Rehnquist, and he is now Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court.
The roots of the Bolles case go deeper than anyone wants to remember.
I went down to Tucson to see John Harvey Adamson sentenced to death for Bolles' murder.
The jury stayed out for a long time. No one could understand why. It seemed such a clear-cut case.
Later, one of the jurors had an astonishing explanation.
"Only one juror held out for an acquittal," he said. "He somehow got it into his head that Don Bolles had tried to frame Adamson for the murder in a move that reached beyond the grave."
"What do you mean?" I asked.
"Do you remember that Bolles' last words at the bombing were that it was the work of three factions, 'Mafia, Emprise and John Harvey Adamson'?"
This single juror somehow got it into his head that Bolles had mentioned Adamson's name only to get revenge upon him.
"That makes no sense," I said.
The juror looked at me, shaking his head.
"What do you think we all thought having to sit in that jury room with him?"
Several years later, I went down to Florence to visit with Adamson. Merely to walk him from his cell on death row to the cramped, windowless interview room, they had trussed him in a series of chains and padlocks elaborate enough to contain King Kong.
Adamson's wrists were cuffed. His ankles were shackled. Chains ran up and down his body, connecting it all. Adamson seemed amused by it all. By this time, he had been in prison more than five years and had never given anyone reason to think he was either an escape artist or a discipline risk. Adamson gave me an amused smile. He asked me how his girlfriend Sandy was doing. It was Sandy, not Adamson's lawyer, who had arranged for the interview.
Adamson said he wanted another chance to testify against Dunlap. Everybody in this case wants to talk on his own terms. And they all tell you they want to see justice done.
Adamson said something that placed being a reporter in Arizona in perspective.
"When it comes to a dead reporter," Adamson said, "they just put him in the ground and turned him over to the worms.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Phoenix New Times' biggest stories.