Few celebrity murders occur, and when they do they are obviously news. When they remain unsolved they enter a very convoluted and embellished history. Celebrity murders also indicate something very curious about the perpetrator: a bold confidence. No one is so ignorant that they do not realize a celebrity murder will fetch worldwide news and instigate official and amateur sleuths from all over the country, if not the world, and over the span of time. Someone who is bold enough to commit this type of murder does so very carefully if he/she even wants to convince themselves that they have a chance to escape the dragnet of justice.
Such is the murder of Bob Crane. Like Gilligan’s Island, Hogan’s Heroes had a unique and practically eternal life in syndication. I grew up with it in the 1970s, and perhaps, though memory fails, as a wee nipper I even saw it occasionally in its last couple of years on primetime. Yep, I am that old.
The show was hilarious, its characters developed and hysterical. Colonel Hogan was beloved, and so were his merry men. The music was upbeat, almost marshal music, but with a kick. By 1978, the show had only been off primetime for 7 years. For us kids, 7 years is a long time, and Hogan’s Heroes was a classic, especially its early episodes, and ruffled in the appropriate misty fringes. We still marked any new show wherein we saw one of the original characters appear in a new or guest role– look, that’s Colonel Kink!
The most famous of the cast, of course, was Bob Crane, the star. He went on to do more work and even played Super Dad in a Disney flick surrounded by the early 1970s staple Disney supporting actors.
When he was found brutally murdered in a motel room in Scottsdale, Arizona, on June 29, 1978, the nation was shocked. Beloved Col. Hogan had not just died; he had been murdered. Then it was discovered he had a double life of sorts. He liked women and he liked filming them in, shall we say, action– himself included.
This naturally opened up a can of potential worms– that is, culprits.
But for our purposes here it is best to stress one thing: the crime scene looks like an amateur’s way to murder someone. Someone without guns and knives. Someone who did it the crudest way possible– by bludgeon. Messy, needlessly, messy way of doing things. Crane was bludgeoned to death in bed. There was no forced entry. It was thought he knew his killer. From a broader perspective, all things considering (i.e. the risqué videos), little Scottsdale, Arizona, seemed the perfect place to commit a celebrity murder– cops weren’t consider too sophisticated. Maybe the killer thought this was the perfect place to act quickly. It was now or never.
Suspicion fell on a buddy of Crane’s, John Carpenter by name, who had a video store. They seemed to like women together and they did some filming together. He had flown in to Phoenix just a few days before to pal around with his friend, Crane. Interesting. Bob was directing at a local playhouse in Scottsdale and was staying at the apartments on East Chaparral Road.
Carpenter had rented a car. On the inside panel of the passenger side the police found a couple of minor stains of blood. But not enough evidence could be compiled to charge Carpenter– not until years later in the early 1990s. He stood trial. He was found not guilty. Later a Phoenix TV station paved the way for DNA testing of the blood. The drops were from two sources. One was unidentified– an UNSUB in the argot of the fuzz. The other was too degraded to identify.
There are those who were shocked to realize none of it was Bob Crane’s blood, which everybody had always assumed it was. Well, this we do not know. One sample was too degraded to identify, so that could be Crane’s. The other is unknown, but this last fact does not let Carpenter off the hook, as some have tried to claim.
Let us not lose sight of CONTEXT and get caught up in a strange narrative based on debating a single clue or point of evidence. The bloodstains are actually not evidence within themselves. They are evidence within the CONTEXT.
And the CONTEXT is damning. The CONTEXT is that Carpenter’s friend Bob Crane is found beaten to death. A bloody mess in bed. Just so happens that Carpenter’s car has bloodstains in it. Just because it was not Crane’s doesn’t mean Carpenter wasn’t involved. It is, in fact, a clue that the perp could have cut his hand on the bludgeon– whatever it was. It was speculated that it was a cameras tripod. (That’s pretty curious. A murder weapon is pretty easy to identify, especially a bludgeon.) That it was on the passenger’s side indicates an accomplice who was driven off in Carpenter’s car after the crime.
If it was the camera tripod, it fits. The killing suggests that the perp was not a professional and had to act with what was at hand. He had no gun or knife. From the force of the blows, his hand may have been cut on the tripod legs (or from wherever he held it).
Yet the fact that the blood was found on the passenger side complicates things. No one gets in their car and drives it from the passenger side. Once again, it sounds as if Carpenter had an accomplice, one who got into the car and was drive off, presumably by Carpenter.
I’ve seen a TV show where Carpenter’s old attorney crowed about how the DNA test vindicated Carpenter– the blood wasn’t Crane’s after all! How is that vindication? It’s Carpenter’s car and there is blood in it on the passenger side, during his visit to the area when his supposed friend is found bludgeoned to death. Isn’t that curious? I do not know if Carpenter was ever DNA tested (before or after he died), but an unknown’s blood, and somebody else’s blood, too degraded to identify, was found in his car. Two different people had their blood in his car.
Blood exists on a curious part of the bed sheets (from crime scene photos) at the bottom of the bed that could suggest the killer wiped his bleeding hand or set the bludgeon down. In fact, because they are parallel rows it would seem the weapon was set down and then the sheets folded around it as the killer did something that yanked accidently on the sheets. If the sheets are still preserved, they should be tested to see if more than one DNA set can be picked up and matched to the “unknown” on the passenger side door of Carpenter’s car. If it’s not Carpenter’s blood, it could be that of an accomplice. Only locating it on the sheets will tell us Carpenter’s car and the murderer were connected.
The only logical progression here is to assume that the blood in the car came from the killer, who had injured himself. This means that some of it should be found upon the crime scene evidence material still preserved.
We all rather owe it to Colonel Hogan to bring some closure to his murder. It has long enough existed as a dark Hollywood story. But let’s finally solve it. This means developing hypotheses and testing them.
The first hypothesis here is that the blood in the car is connected to the crime and that it is the blood of the perpetrator. The next step is to find it at the crime scene.
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Since 1990 Gian J. Quasar has investigated a broad range of mysterious subjects, from strange disappearances to serial murders, earning in that time the unique distinction of being likened to “the real life Kolchak.” However, he is much more at home with being called The Quester or Q Man. “He’s bloody eccentric, an historian with no qualifications who sticks his nose into affairs and gets results.” He is the author of several books, one of which inspired a Resolution in Congress.