Beloved entertainer Bob Crane’s dark sexual desires become public knowledge after police discover his large collection of sex tapes in his Scottsdale, AZ home. When investigators identify the other man in the videos as John Carpenter – Crane’s friend and partner in amateur pornography – and find damning blood evidence in Carpenter’s rental car, it’s only a matter of time before the case goes to trial. And truly a matter of time it is – fourteen years’ worth to be exact.
But John Carpenter is not the only one who could have murdered Bob Crane.
We left off last week’s episode of Unsolved Murders: True Crime Stories with a list of likely suspects that also included a vengeful ex-wife and numerous lovers filmed without consent for Crane’s personal pornos. Show hosts Carter Roy and Wenndy Mackenzie reexamine the evidence and consider each possibility.
When Bob Crane doesn’t show up to a lunch meeting, his co-star Victoria Ann Berry swings by his apartment to scold him for his rude, unprofessional behavior. After knocking on his door, she announces that if he slept through it, she’ll burn the place down. Crane does not answer the door. Letting herself in, Berry discovers his corpse and screams.
Without a homicide unit, Scottsdale police are completely unequipped to handle the death of a celebrity, let alone a murder. They do the best they can under the circumstances. Investigators note no signs of forced entry or robbery. After being beaten to death with a blunt object, Crane’s neck was wrapped with an electrical cord. Police assume Crane was murdered with the tripod he used for his amateur pornos, although it’s not found at the scene. Whether the killer actually hit Crane in the head with a tripod is uncertain, but anything that could be the weapon at the scene tests negative for blood.
During their search, police discover Crane’s extensive collection of sex tapes. John Carpenter, who flew into Phoenix just days before the murder and appeared in the tapes, becomes the number one suspect. Police seize Carpenter’s rental car and search his hotel room. A crime scene investigator spots blood smears inside the car that match Crane’s rare blood type.
A detective interrogating Carpenter insinuates that he was jealous of his rich and famous friend. Carpenter denies it. Even when confronted with blood evidence, Carpenter swears Crane was never in the rental car. Unable to get a confession, or prove the blood was Crane’s, investigators reluctantly release Carpenter and do not press charges.
Twelve years later, in 1990, Detective Raines finds something his predecessors on the case overlooked. In an old crime scene photo of Carpenter’s rental car, Raines sees a small chunk of what appears to be brain matter and convinces the Maricopa County Attorney to reopen the case. In 1992, Carpenter is arrested and charged with murder, but his trail does not begin until 1994.
Crane’s son Robert, having gotten nowhere with accusing his stepmother fourteen years earlier, testifies against Carpenter. According to Robert Crane, his father wanted to overcome his sex addiction and called Carpenter the night before he was murdered to sever their friendship. The defense quickly pokes holes in Robert’s claim, pointing out that Carpenter and his father went out to dinner that evening and were seen to be as close as ever. The rest of the prosecution’s case falls apart when the defense reminds the jury that the police never recovered the murder weapon and misplaced the brain matter Raines saw in the photograph. Carpenter is acquitted; he passes away four years later in 1998.
Although Scottsdale PD doesn’t consider Crane’s second wife Sigrid Valdis, aka Patricia Olson, a suspect, Unsolved Murders: True Crime Stories show hosts Carter and Wenndy do. She had ample motive. Crane cheated on Valdis. She also was the sole benefactor of his will, which included his entire estate. In an act of vengeance, jealousy, greed, or all of the above, Valdis could have murdered her ex-husband. But despite the reasons for their split in 1977, the two reportedly reconciled and were on good terms.
Carter and Wenndy briefly consider the possibility that one of the many women Crane videotaped during sex killed him. It’s not hard to believe that the lack of consent would make someone angry enough to kill. It’s also possible that Crane was confronted by an upset boyfriend or both the woman and her boyfriend.
But at the end of the day, Carter and Wenndy put their money on John Carpenter as the murderer. What’s the chance someone with the same rare blood type as Bob Crane would have been in Carpenter’s car? Had it not been for the limitations in forensic science during the 1970s and 1990s, which had yet to conduct reliable DNA testing, Carter and Wenndy believe the blood found in Carpenter’s rental car would have put this case to bed.
But what do you think? Was John Carpenter the killer or should Bob Crane’s ex-wife and many lovers be given a closer look? Weigh into the conversation on Facebook and Twitter. We’d love to hear your thoughts.