Gossipy Kate’s
“Unscripted Endings”


 tackles the
the unsolved murder   
of

actor Bob Crane…..
whose death became more famous
 than his screen roles!


Scottsdale, Arizona
It was 2 p.m. and hot that afternoon of Wednesday, June 29th, 1978. As she approached 132A, Victoria Perry checked her watch just to be sure. The Australian actress had an appointment with her director/co-star Bob Crane to re-dub a recorded soundtrack for a scene in the play they were doing together. The knock on the door brought no response so she tried the door and, when she found it unlocked, let herself in. She called out but no one answered.  The two-bedroom apartment was dark and she pulled open the curtain to look out at the pool but no Bob. She headed for the bedroom                            
                 


132A Winfield Apartments

Murder at First Sight….

 “At first I thought it was a girl with dark hair, because all the blood had turned dark. I thought “Oh, Bob’s got a girl in here. Now, where’s Bob?” Then, as she walked over….”Well she has done something to herself. Bob has gone for help”. After that time, I recognized blood…It was a strange feeling.” An even closer look and Victoria realized that the entire wall was covered with blood and it was a man on the bed. His head was so badly beaten that he was unrecognizable and he had a cord tied around his neck. Victoria remembered it was tied in a bow.  She still didn’t know who was on the bed. It was the police who eventually identified the body. Bob Crane had been bludgeoned to death while he slept.


                            


Diagram of murder scene

The Victim….

Robert Edward Crane was two weeks shy of his 49th birthday when he was murdered. The star of the television comedy hit “Hogan’s Heroes”, his career had been going downhill since the show was abruptly cancelled in 1971. He had been on tour of dinner theaters   with a play called “Beginner’s Luck” and had rented this apartment when he came to Scottsdale in early June.  Who wanted him dead?

 

 

 

. Crane quit school at 16 to become a drummer with the Connecticut Symphony but was dismissed after two years for “clowning around during a Bach fugue.”

. At 21 he married his high school sweetheart Ann Terzian and took his career on a different path. As a disk jockey, he rose from a small radio station in New York to CBS’s KNX in Los Angeles where he became known as “The King of the Los Angeles Airwaves” with guest stars like Jayne Mansfield, Marilyn Monroe, Frank Sinatra and Bob Hope.

 

 


Crane with Jayne Mansfield


                              
. The family increased by three and, with the exception of a brief separation in the 1950s, the marriage remained intact…until 1970.

. In the late 1950s Crane apparently got interested in a new hobby…amateur pornography. He began taking Polaroid photographs and home movies of his extramarital sexual encounters. This would figure prominently in his murder investigation.

. In 1965, after being cast in the recurring role of Dr. David Kelsey in “The Donna Reed Show” for two years, Crane was cut from the show for his “sexually aggressive attitude toward his stage wife”.

 


TVGuide with Crane and Cynthia Lynn


. Without even a hiccup in his career, Crane went into the leading role of Colonel Robert Hogan, the wisecracking, crafty leader of a band of Allied prisoners in a Nazi concentration camp. The hit television series called “Hogan’s Heroes” lasted six seasons before being canceled and earned two Emmy nominations for Crane. But his marriage of 21 years became a casualty. After one affair with actress Cynthia Lynn (who played Col. Klink’s secretary), he began another with Sigrid Valdis (aka Patti Olson) who was “Hilda” in the series. In 1970 he divorced his wife and married Patti on the set of the show.
                  

 

 

Wedding on the set   

. Crane made two Disney films after the show ended, “SuperDad” in 1974 and “Gus” in 1976 and even had his own show in 1975. But soon the work began to dry up and he took to the road on the stage and the dinner theater circuit.
 . In the late 1960s Crane met John Carpenter, an electronics store manager and videotape consultant for Sony and suddenly tech met sex. Now, like the San Andreas fault, Robert Edward Crane was locked, loaded and ready to rumble. The two men often met along Crane’s tour to enjoy their mutual hobby. The night before the murder the two were bar-hopping to pick up women (although Crane rarely drank and Carpenter was a teetotaler). It made Carpenter the #1 suspect in the murder case. The police never seriously looked for anyone else.

 

 


Who killed Bob Crane?

The Crime Scene….

There was no physical signs of a struggle and, as a later autopsy revealed, Crane was asleep when his killer struck the fatal blows. The blow that killed him was delivered with such force that it was probable his assailant was a man. A camera tripod was identified as the murder weapon with two separate parts of it inflicting two separate wounds. It was a second tripod, seen on the videotapes but missing from the murder scene. It was never found. A video camera cord was knotted around the victim’s neck but, oddly, only Victoria Perry remembered it was tied in a bow.  The presence of semen on the outside of the body was evidence of the killer’s personal hatred but without DNA analysis it proved nothing. The killer then wiped the blood off the weapon on the bed sheets and  pulled the sheet up over Crane’s body.

There was no signs of forced entry and nothing of value appeared to be missing ruling out robbery as a motive and suggesting that Crane knew his killer. There was a bottle of Scotch on the table and Bob never touched Scotch. Carpenter never touched alcohol at all. But it was the number of videotapes in the apartment, their content and the amount of video equipment that seemed to interest the police. They even found a mini-darkroom in a rear bathroom. However, they did come to one conclusion…it was a well-planned murder.


Crane’s video equipment

But... did they “round up all the usual suspects”?

Nope. In this case the police had “tunnel vision” and concentrated only on one suspect (or not)….John Carpenter. They tried for 14 years to convict him of the crime. Had they bothered to open their eyes, they would have seen that charming Bob had left a trail of enemies even a blind man could have followed.

. The ex-wives….not likely although neighbors (and John Carpenter) overheard a loud, bitter phone call conversation between Crane and estranged second wife Patti just hours before the murder. Bob was divorcing Patti and preparing to share a new house with his first born son, Bob, Jr. (Ann and Bob’s son who was named Robert David. Patti and Bob named their son Robert Scott and called him Scotty).
                                


The first family  

. His co-star Victoria Perry who first claimed her relationship with Crane was like “brother and sister” but later admitted that she slept with him “two or three times”. She was not on any of the videotapes found in the apartment. However, it was later revealed that “something” was missing from the “little black bag” Crane always had with him. What it was and who knew enough about it to realize it was gone is still a mystery.  

. Who was the man in the white Cadillac?  One of the movers working in the area reported seeing a man (not Carpenter) exit Crane’s apartment in the early morning of June 29, 1978 and drive away in a white Cadillac with California license plates. The only person with a white Cadillac that answered that description was Alan Wells, business manager, boyfriend and future husband of Victoria Perry.
 
. The fellow actor (never identified) who swore to even the score with Crane after a violent argument.
                              


Crane makes his exit

.  The person or persons who tampered with the valve stem on Crane’s car the evening before the murder. The gas station attendant who repaired it stated “it was no accident”.

. The ex-boy friend of the Scottsdale woman in one of Crane’s videotapes who taped a mutilated newspaper photo of Crane to her back door.  Or  any of the husbands, boyfriends or family members of Crane’s “home movie stars” who had plenty of reasons to want him dead.

 

 

 

 


Carpenter at 1992  trial

Now to John Carpenter ….

The police were so confident that Carpenter was guilty of Crane’s murder that they stayed the course for 14 years. In 1992, they finally were able to get an indictment and just a few days before Christmas, California authorities shipped Carpenter back to Maricopa County to face a murder charge. “Not only did I lose one of my best friends here, these idiots accused me of doing it”.

. It was a custom for Carpenter to join Crane on tour and Crane picked him up at the airport early in the day before the murder. They went out that night and the women with whom they shared the evening were interviewed by police. No one saw any apparent discord between the two men even though the police maintained the friendship was on the skids. It was also rumored that Crane had loaned Carpenter $15, 000 and wanted the debt repaid.  Crane was in no immediate need for funds since he was still receiving residuals for the reruns of “Hogan’s Heroes” and no concrete proof was ever reported to validate the matter.
                              


No end to Hogan’s Heroes”!  

. The most incriminating piece of evidence against Carpenter was the small smear of blood on the passenger side door of his rental car. It matched Crane’s type B found in only one of seven people  but without the definitive DNA testing we have today, it was not enough for a murder indictment.

. The indictment was issued on the basis of the “new startling evidence” the prosecution claimed to have….a previously overlooked color photograph showing what may have been a tiny piece of human tissue in the car as well. But the tissue had been discarded and so could not be examined even though several pathologists acknowledged it may well have come from the weapon used in the murder.

 



Carpenter stayed here at the Sunburst Inn.

. Another indication of Carpenter’s guilt, according to police, was his “hurried departure” on the morning Wednesday, June 28th, 1978. Also considered suspicious was Carpenter’s call to Crane’s apartment from Los Angeles. When the police lieutenant answered the phone and explained they were there to investigate an incident, Carpenter never asked what happened or where Crane was at the time. The police assumed that he already knew Bob was dead. However, Carpenter did phone Bob, Jr. to tell him something was wrong there.

. The police failed to interview any other suspects or take into account the interviews with employers, neighbors and even a jilted ex-lover that described John Carpenter as a ‘gentle” man who they felt was not capable of murdering his best friend.

 John Carpenter was acquitted of the murder of Bob Crane. He died on September 4th, 1998 still maintaining his innocence.
           



AutoFocus with Greg Kinnear and Maria Bello

In 2002 a film about the Crane murder was released. Based  on a book by Robert Graysmith titled “Auto Focus” it starred Greg Kinnear as Crane. While  neither the book or the film excused Crane’s dual nature, it did depict Carpenter (Willem Dafoe) as a  sinister and destructive force in Crane’s life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who killed Bob Crane? Consider the fact that Bob was killed while he was sleeping so he was comfortable with whoever was there.
                      


“ I don’t smoke. I don’t drink.      
                                   Two out of three ain’t bad.” Bob Crane

 

Was it a woman who perhaps accidentally left the door open for his killer? We will probably never know unless someone comes forward. It is very possible Crane’s killer still walks the streets.