Longform

THE BOB CRANE MURDER CASE PART TWO

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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.

@rule:
@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.

Carpenter checked in at the Sunburst, a few blocks from Crane's apartment. The new additions to the photo album portended a wild time in the Valley, just what Carpenter was seeking. The two cohorts did their usual bar- and disco-hopping after Crane finished with his evening performances of Beginner's Luck. Though Carpenter didn't drink and Crane drank only rarely, the Valley's nightspots were the best places to meet potential new scores.

Though Carpenter failed on the trip, Crane scored big. Police reports indicate he had sex on the afternoon of his murder with a 29-year-old woman he'd met a few weeks earlier.

After the show on the evening of June 28--Carpenter's last scheduled night in town--the two men left the Windmill. Crane's car had a flat tire and the men drove it to a nearby gas station.

The attendant later noted that someone had apparently tampered with the valve stem on the tire. That led detectives to speculate Carpenter had planned to whack Crane with a tire iron while the actor was changing it. How Carpenter had planned to create an alibi under that scenario is uncertain.

The two men returned to Crane's apartment, where Crane had a loud argument on the telephone with his estranged second wife, Patty. Crane fell into a funk after the ugly call and he wanted to hit the streets running.

It was before midnight, early for the two incurable night owls. They drove together in Crane's car to Bogarts, a bustling Phoenix disco.

The pair met two sisters at the disco, Carole and Christi Newell. Crane introduced Carpenter as his "manager," a typical ploy to impress possible scores. But Crane wasn't much interested in the Newell sisters. From Bogarts, he telephoned Carolyn Baare, a restaurant hostess supervisor he had met during his stay in the Valley.

Crane asked Baare to join the men for an early morning breakfast at the Safari coffee shop in Scottsdale. She said she'd meet them there. Carole Newell's sister was out of the picture by now, but Carole agreed to come along.

The three drove to Scottsdale in Crane's car. On the way to the restaurant, Carpenter grabbed the keys to his rental car from his hotel room. Carpenter and Newell then drove in his car to the Safari, followed shortly by Crane. Carolyn Baare showed up right after Crane.

By all accounts, the conversation at the Safari was friendly but uneventful. The quartet broke up at about 2 a.m. Newell walked out with Carpenter as some fans of Crane chatted with him and Baare for a few moments.

Baare says Crane shouted ahead to Carpenter, "Where are you going?" She says Carpenter replied either, "I will see you later" or "I will see you tomorrow." Carpenter then drove off with Carole Newell.

Carolyn Baare declined Crane's offer to come over to his apartment. She drove herself home after making plans to meet him for lunch the next day.

Carpenter was hoping he had finally hit the jackpot on his last night in the Valley. In Newell's first interview with police, she said Carpenter had simply dropped her off at her home, about five minutes from the restaurant.

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Paul Rubin
Contact: Paul Rubin