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From the start, Carpenter has recalled it quite differently. He says he convinced Newell to come into his hotel room at the Sunburst. There, Carpenter says, "I put some moves on her, but she didn't go for it, so I stopped and drove her home."

That's more in line with Newell's later statements to police and her recent testimony at Carpenter's preliminary hearing.

"He tried to encourage me to stay," she told investigators in 1990. "He laid down on top of me while my back was on the bed and kissed me. I remember thinking, 'How am I going to get out of this?' I kept saying, 'I got to go, I got to go.'"
Carpenter took Newell home about 3 a.m. That put him in the five-hour window of opportunity to kill Crane, who died between 3 and 8 a.m., according to a coroner's report, probably closer to 3.

Carpenter drove Newell home after eliciting a promise from her that she'd awaken Crane the next morning, sometime between 8 and 11 a.m. Though she never did go to Crane's, authorities have intimated Carpenter wanted Newell to find the body of the man he planned to kill. But Carpenter says he had a reason for the request: If she doesn't want me, he says he thought to himself, maybe she'll want Bob.

Prosecutors allege that sometime after he dropped Newell off, Carpenter entered Crane's apartment and bashed the sleeping actor to death.

But Carpenter insists he returned to his hotel and called Crane to see how things had fared with Carolyn Baare. Crane, he says, told him he also had struck out. The actor said he was standing in his undershorts editing the swear words out of Saturday Night Fever so his 6-year-old son could watch it.

Carpenter says he told Crane he'd find his own transportation to the airport later that morning. The two exchanged pleasantries, Carpenter says, and soon said good night to each other.

Records show Carpenter checked out of the Sunburst at 8:24 that morning and turned in the Cordoba at the Avis counter in the hotel, complaining to a clerk that the car had electrical problems.

The hotel check-in clerk says Carpenter was "pleasant but strange," which is how some describe the man to this day. Carpenter, a nervous type, says he mistakenly believed his flight home was at 11 a.m., but then discovered it was an hour earlier. If he was edgy, he says, it was about his flight.

Carpenter briefly tracks his next movements like this: He says he took a cab to Sky Harbor, hopped on his Continental Airlines flight to Los Angeles, picked up his car at a repair shop there and drove to work.

He says he called Bob Crane's apartment from work and heard Scottsdale police lieutenant Ron Dean's voice for the first time. Carpenter would get to know Dean very well in the next two weeks.

@body:John Carpenter in 1978 was separated from his wife, Diana, and was living with 20-year-old Rita Cloutier in Inglewood, California. Rita answered the door at the couple's apartment early on the evening of July 1, the day after police discovered the blood in Carpenter's rental car.

The two men at the door introduced themselves as Ron Dean and Dennis Borkenhagen from the Scottsdale Police Department. They wanted to talk to John. Rita said she didn't know where he was. She said she had expected to be away for the weekend, but had just returned home. She said she thought Carpenter might be at the home of his longtime friend, actor Richard Dawson of Hogan's Heroes and Family Feud fame.

A spooked Carpenter had spent time at Dawson's after the murder. Dawson's son, Mark Dawson, then in his late teens, recalls the visits.

"As far as I can remember," Mark Dawson tells New Times, "he was concerned with helping the cops find out who had killed his friend. He wasn't fleeing--just the opposite. My dad had no great love for Bob Crane, but he and John were shocked more than anything else. We really tried not to talk about it much."
Before the cops could contact Richard Dawson, Carpenter called home. Dean got on the line and Carpenter told him he was at his mother's house, about 70 miles away. He agreed to drive back right away and meet with them.

At the apartment, Dean read Carpenter his Miranda rights. He told the investigators to ask whatever they wanted. For the next few hours, Carpenter recounted his visit to the Valley.

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Paul Rubin
Contact: Paul Rubin