But the problems with the case remain the same as when the bludgeoned body of the Hogan's Heroes star was found in a Scottsdale apartment on June 29, 1978. The main problem: evidence.
Los Angeles electronics executive John Carpenter has pleaded innocent to killing his longtime friend; Carpenter remains free on bond. Testimony at a monthlong preliminary hearing last year exposed glaring weaknesses in the state's case. For starters, prosecutors lacked any viable motive for the murder. (The prevailing police theory long held that Carpenter killed Crane in a fit of unrequited homosexual rage.)
But a prosecutor said during a court hearing last Friday that he will try to prove that Crane lent Carpenter $15,000 in 1978 and may have been demanding repayment. Deputy county attorney Bob Shutts showed Superior Court Judge Gregory Martin a slip of paper that purports to show "evidence" of the alleged loan.
Investigators recently found the crumpled paper in garbage retrieved from Crane's apartment after the murder nearly 16 years ago.
Shutts told Martin that Carpenter's former mistress, Cathy Swatzell, will testify she was present in 1978 when Crane lent Carpenter the $15,000.
"She will make a most interesting witness," Shutts, a veteran prosecutor who took over the Crane case in December, told the judge.
In previous interviews with supermarket tabloids and case investigators, the 34-year-old Swatzell has spun a variety of yarns. In one incredible account--a paid interview with the Globe tabloid--Swatzell said she had sex with Crane and Carpenter in Scottsdale just two hours before the murder. Yet she told Scottsdale police in 1992 that she was in California when Crane was murdered. In the same police interview, she said she and Carpenter had visited Crane on the set of Hogan's Heroes. But that show ended in 1971, more than two years before Carpenter met Swatzell. She also told police that Carpenter was once arrested in a raid on a Los Angeles sex club. Police have no record of such an arrest.
"On its face, it sure doesn't say much to me," Martin said of the note about the alleged loan. "It sounds like, other than Swatzell, there's nothing to corroborate [the loan]. . . . This is a case in which the evidence is being generated as we go along. This is maybe like no other case. It hung around for 14 years and then the state, for whatever reason, decided to pursue it."
But the judge agreed that a jury should decide the merits of the new evidence at trial, now scheduled to start June 20.
Under a second "new" theory to be put forth by the state, Crane was about to end his long friendship with Carpenter. If Crane had done that, the prosecution will contend, Carpenter would have lost access to the parade of women eager to dally with his Hollywood buddy.
The thought "that his great sex life was coming to an end," Shutts will argue at trial, made Carpenter angry enough to bludgeon Crane as he slept.
To bolster this theory, Shutts wants to introduce videotapes which show Crane and Carpenter having sex with consenting women. According to Shutts, the tapes show Carpenter took the "secondary position" in the X-rated escapades, engaging in sex with the women after Crane.
The tapes are also important for jurors to see, Shutts contends, because they show a camera tripod that may have been the murder weapon.
Assistant public defender Steve Avilla, who is representing Carpenter, argued that prosecutors have had long enough to prepare. "This is not about Bob Shutts against John Carpenter," Avilla told Martin. "This is about [County Attorney] Rick Romley against John Carpenter."
Avilla is expected to argue that Romley--in spite of the case's glaring weaknesses--authorized the prosecution of Carpenter to generate favorable publicity during 1992, an election year.