He told the investigators he had kept the Cordoba locked at all times, and that the only people who had been in the car during his stay were Bob Crane and Carole Newell. They broke the news to him about finding the blood in the car. Carpenter had no explanation for it.
After the interview, Carpenter went with the Scottsdale cops voluntarily to a Los Angeles County sheriff's substation. He made plans there to fly back to Phoenix the next morning for further questioning.
"I know now this was a stupid thing to do, because I knew they had me in their sights," Carpenter says. "They even told me they thought I was the bad guy. I was nervous. But I didn't have anything to hide."
On July 2, Carpenter flew back to Arizona with Dean and Borkenhagen. Though he didn't know it at the time, he had a one-way ticket. That spoke volumes about the cops' intentions.
That afternoon, Carpenter met at the Scottsdale Police Department with Dean, Borkenhagen and deputy county attorney Larry Turoff. Carpenter expressed apprehension at the start of the interview, "since you [have] implied and directly told me that I had direct contact with Bob Crane's death."
But Carpenter again waived his rights to confer with an attorney and agreed to answer any questions.
"You shook me with the blood on my car," he told them. "I don't know where that came from; I don't know how much there was. Then you said to me, 'Why did I kill Bob Crane?' I told you right off I didn't, and I would never do that. . . . I'm just not that type of person."
Dean again asked him about Crane's album of nude photos he had mentioned in their California interview. Carpenter said he had seen it the day of the murder in Crane's bedroom.
This would become important to the investigators: Others they had interviewed had also mentioned the photo album, but the search of Crane's apartment hadn't turned it up. The cops concluded Carpenter had taken the photo album from the murder scene and then volunteered the information as a clever diversionary tactic to prove his good faith.
Near the end of the July 2 interview, Carpenter blurted something out of the blue:
"Yesterday, you said something about a polygraph. I could go, voluntary, [for] either a polygraph or sodium pentothal. And you can ask me whatever you want, under doctors' conditions or however . . . either one that you people feel you might get more information out of me."
The Scottsdale cops remained noncommittal.
The interview ended with Carpenter asking the million-dollar question: "Well, what happens to me?"
Dean and Borkenhagen wanted to arrest Carpenter on the spot for first-degree murder. But Maricopa County Attorney Chuck Hyder wouldn't authorize it.
"In my opinion, they weren't even close to having enough for us to make a case," recalls Hyder, now an assistant United States Attorney. "As far as I knew, you had a little blood in a car--they didn't know whose for sure. Motive was lacking, and so was physical evidence."
The Scottsdale investigators ignored Carpenter's request for a polygraph or other "truth" test. Almost 15 years later, Ron Dean has a curious explanation for why he didn't call Carpenter's bluff in 1978.
"I believe you have to know two or three things more than the bad guy does," Dean claims. "Otherwise, he'll beat you. We wanted to know a few more things before we put John on the machine. There wasn't enough out there yet to play truth or consequences."
Carpenter flew back to California by himself. But Scottsdale was hot on his trail and he knew it.
In a tape-recorded telephone conversation with Bob Crane Jr., possibly on July 10, Carpenter said: "They say that there was blood on my car . . . a very uncommon type. This is bullshit. Boy, they're scratching my back hard, and I'm the one that's trying to help. If your dad had any best friend or whatever you want to call it. . . ."
"It was you," Crane Jr. interrupted. "I guess they're waiting for you to just break down or something."
To this day, Ron Dean says, he is sure Carpenter was ready to confess.
"He was trying to tell me he did it," Dean says, "but he was playing games. It was, 'Catch me if you can.' It was almost like he was in a play or something. He puts himself in the third person. He's watched those guys like Dawson and Crane and he wants to be them. He's a real case."
On July 12, Dean and Borkenhagen popped up unannounced again at Carpenter's Inglewood apartment. He agreed to meet yet again with them a few days later at an Inglewood police substation.