July 13, 1928 – June 29, 1978
Wow. Too much information. Loads of help with this story, it’s been a popular request. Thanks especially to Kevin Hassell, my right hand man at Findadeath. Much photography and information from a friend, Courtney, and Nick.
Bob Crane started out in show business as a disk jockey. He wanted to be a musician when he was younger and turned out to be a terrific drummer. His son Bob Jr. is also a musician. They say that Bob was offered the Jack Paar slot on the Tonight Show, but refused. He is best known as the star of the hit TV series, Hogan’s Heroes. He is also well known for being the victim of a brutal murder which is still unsolved, 26 years later.
In June of 1978, Crane was in Scottsdale, Arizona, on tour with a play. This play,Beginner’s Luck, was appearing at the Windmill Dinner Theater which is now a nightclub called Buzz. After Hogan’s Heroes ended in 1971, Crane had found himself typecast, and had a hard time finding steady work. He had starred in The Bob Crane Show, after Heroes, but that didn’t last long. He had also done a Disney movie, Superdad, but that flopped. He was hoping to make a professional comeback with a new sitcom for TV that he hoped to develop.
On June 28, 1978, Crane had been bar hopping with a friend, John Carpenter. Carpenter and Crane had become friendly during the Heroes run, having been introduced by Hogan’s Heroes costar – Survey Says: The late Dickie Dawson.
Carpenter was a video salesman, and he and Crane had a lot in common. One of Bob’s favorite pastimes was to frequent topless bars and strip clubs in search of potential conquests, i.e.: buxom women. Not a fussy eater, he was also having an affair with actress Cynthia Lynn who played Colonel Klink’s secretary. Later he had an affair with actress Patti Olsen eventually leaving his wife of 21 years for her. He was in the process of divorcing Patti at the time of his death.
Back to Crane and Carpenter. Whenever Crane was in town on tour, Carpenter would visit and the two of them would hit bars and nightclubs to pick up the womenz. They would then return to Crane’s apartment to videotape themselves having sex with different women. Crane was Carpenter’s ticket to different women. According to some published sources, Bob wanted to end his friendship with Carpenter, because Carpenter allegedly made a pass at Crane. Whatever.
On the night of June 28th, Crane and Carpenter had picked up two women at the Safari night club, which was torn down in 1999,
but the mailbox was still there when Nick took the snaps.
Carpenter took one of the women to room 206
of the Sunburst Resort,
a block away from where Crane was staying, at the Winfield apartments (Hi NICK!).
Crane had returned home, parked and entered his room alone.
From his room at the Sunburst Resort, Carpenter could see Crane’s apartment complex.
Update on the Winfield Apartments from Findadeath.com friend Courtney: “When Bob Crane lived there they were called the Winfield Apartments. They are now the Winfield Place Condominiums. Not really much that is condo-ish about them, if you ask me. Maybe they were a bit more posh back in the day, which wouldn’t surprise me as Scottsdale at that time was not developed into the snoot-fest it is now.
His apartment is the door immediately to the right of the mailboxes (which were not there back in ’78). The parking lot is one straight strip, with no room to turn around. There is a much publicized picture of his co-star in the play walking away from the apartment as escorted by police. That’s the parking “lot” area she walked down. Thanks, Courtney.
The next day, June 29th, actress Victoria Berry arrived to see Bob. When he failed to respond to her knocking, she let herself in. The door was unlocked. Inside, she discovered Crane in bed, wearing only boxer shorts, murdered.
Someone had entered the apartment during the night, and had crushed Crane’s skull, apparently with a (missing) camera tripod. His face was so badly beaten, he was unrecognizable. After killing Crane, the killer had tied an electric cord around his neck. Occupants in the neighboring apartments had heard nothing. Police would later remark, “It was a well planned murder.”
Crane was a light sleeper, and there was no forced entry, so it was assumed that Crane knew the killer. There was also a bottle of Scotch on the table, and Crane never touched Scotch.
Here are photographs of the murder scene. If you are easily glitched out, don’t gohere.
The police immediately centered the investigation on Carpenter. He was one of the last people to see Crane alive. In addition, the police discovered a library of videotapes in Crane’s apartment, along with video equipment and photo albums. The tapes featured Crane engaged in group sex with different women. Carpenter was featured in the videos as well.
His death certificate lists simply “Head Injury.” Bob was 49.
In the meantime, Bob was taken to California, and buried in Oakwood Cemetery, in Chatsworth.
Blood matching Crane’s rare blood type was discovered in the car that Carpenter had rented. However, this was before DNA testing had been developed, and it was never determined whether or not the blood was Crane’s. The county attorney declined to prosecute Carpenter or the crime. It would be said later that the police had handled the investigation very badly.
In 1992, the investigation was reopened. Investigators had determined that bits of fat tissue seen in photos of Carpenter’s rental car matched those found at the murder scene. In addition, they concluded that Crane had been killed with a second tripod that was seen in videotapes, but missing from Crane’s apartment. The new county attorney brought up charges, and in 1994 Carpenter was brought to trial for Crane’s murder. After two months, Carpenter was aquitted. He died in 1998, denying any involvement in the murder to the end.
The most popular theory is that a Mafia boyfriend or husband of one of his many female costars murdered Crane. A tampered valve stem had caused a flat tire during his last performance, possibly intending to strand Crane in the darkened parking lot outside the theater.
The Maricopa County Medical Examiner surmised that Crane had been murdered in the early morning, by someone known to Crane. The coldness of the body and the onset of rigor mortis determined the time.
It was theorized that the person was very strong. The lack of splattered blood on the ceiling suggested a short swing of the murder weapon. Someone of less strength would have required a larger arc, and splattered blood.
The examiner also discovered flaky, white dry material around his groin, probably jizz. This led police to believe that either Crane had jerked off before bed (ahhhhhhhh. nite!), or after murdering Crane, his killer had jerked off over the body. Lovely.
A Findadeath.com friend sends us this: “His son Scott (who’s mad at older half-brother “Bob Jr.” [Scott says he’s legally not Bob Jr. and may not be any relation to Crane] for serving as an advisor to the film Auto Focus for $20,000) preserves the integrity of his dad’s image by selling T-shirts of him humping his conquests. Premium members can see Crane porn dating from the 50’s to the post SuperDad stage. This is a new zenith for cashing in, though I suppose that if your inheritance was some anecdotes about Richard Dawson and seventy-eight linear feet of homemade 8 mm porn, this is your way of making lemonade. Website since removed.
Funny comment I got in my mailbox today: “If Bob Crane didn’t do porn, his son Scott wouldn’t be able to draw a crowd to his shit site with a crayon and construction paper!” – C
Bob Crane was exhumed and moved to Westwood Memorial Park, and left unmarked for a few years until relatively mid 2003. Weird thing, they reburied Bob with his old tombstone. He was moved by his second wife, without telling the children from the first marriage. It’s very ugly, and rumor is that Bob was going to dump wife 2, go back to wife 1, and get psychiatric help for his sex addiction.
My friend also sends us this, “I noticed on the gravesite that Bob Crane’s oldest son is not named. It is debated whether he is really Bob Crane’s son or not as Scott took a DNA test and “Bob Jr.” did not. There is bad blood between Pat Crane (Hogan’s Hilda) and “Bob Jr.” also about the Auto Focus movie and other things. I also included a pic from the funeral with Larry Hovis, Robert Clary, and Leon Askin. All were pallbearers except for Leon, who Pat Crane didn’t like.”
I was also sent this mass card, from the re-interment. This is the flip side, and this is the new grave, with the wife he was divorcing, prominently figured “together forever.”
In June of 2003, the condo that Crane was murdered in, went up for auction on Ebay. I know the asking price was $180,000.00, but I don’t know if it sold.
Crane was well off financially. He had a percentage of Hogan’s Heroes, and it was one of the most successfully syndicated series of the 1960’s. The show was produced by Bing Crosby Productions, which doesn’t surprise me that much. It figures that Bing would produce a sitcom about a Nazi prison camp. I just wonder how the hell it got commissioned. Imagine the pitch meetings, trying to sell it to a network. “This is gonna be GREAT!”
I read that Bob was very generous to kids, often supporting children’s organizations financially. Legend is that Alfred Hitchcock was a huge admirer of Bob, and sent him roses anonymously. Those two would probably have a hell of a coffee klatch.
One of Crane’s costars, Larry Hovis, passed away in September of 2003. By all accounts a super likeable guy, and he is very much missed by his friends and fans. If you would like to learn more about him, go here.
For a very bizarre bit of TV history/trivia, go to this page and scroll down about 3/4 of the way, there is a Jello commercial with the cast of Hogan’s Heroes and… Carol Channing. Stunning. TVparty.
UPDATE February 2005, from Find a Death friend Max:
A&E just did a cold cases thing on dead movie stars (watch out! they’re trying to steal your gig! Some of the photos they showed were pretty gross!). Of course, being fascinated with this kind of stuff, I watched.
Bob Crane was originally from Waterbury, CT, about 10 minutes down the road from where I, your devoted servant, write this. He later moved to Stamford, CT, where he started dating his high school sweetheart that was his first wife. So when you write that there was a rumor that he planned to ditch the later model, and return to his first wife, I believe it (maybe I’m just a die-hard (!) romantic).
If you look at the second wife, the SECOND Colonel Klink secretary on Hogan’s Heroes to get involved with Crane, you can see that she was a BEAST, and it HAD to be a sex addiction for him to even go NEAR her! Anyway, they had been married just a tad short of 20 years when they were divorced, and he was supposedly a devoted family man until he got hooked on video-sex.
Too bad he didn’t “get clean” just a little sooner—& ditch that sleaze John Carpenter. GLAD HE’S DEAD! My money’s on HIM as the wielder of the video tripod.
Thanks for the info, Max!
NEW April 2006:
I recently acquired the DVD for “Auto Focus,” the Greg Kinnear movie about Bob Crane, and one of the DVD extras is a documentary called “Murder In Scottsdale.” Don’t know if you’ve seen it, but it adds a few bits of info to the story, plus some better pictures (color!) than the A&E Biography.
First, Bob Crane Jr. (of course he was interviewed – he was a consultant on the movie, as well as having a bit part in it) asserts that stepmom Patty (Hilda) and stepbrother Scottie had something to do with the murder, since they showed up in Scottsdale a few days before, unannounced, allegedly to try to reconcile with Bob. The documentary tends to dismiss this theory but it is still given airtime.
Then, there’s the blood stains found on the front curtains, where it is theorized that the murderer stood and looked outside at some movers who had arrived at 4 a.m. to start a job, since that’s the only time in June in Arizona that it’s cool enough to do heavy moving. The killer allegedly waited, trapped inside, until he saw that the movers were busy and then slipped away. There’s also a hearsay story that the movers said they saw a man walking away from Bob’s apartment and that the man looked like Carpenter, but there was no other mention of the story or of the movers.
There’s also a red herring presented about an alleged phone call from Victoria Berry at 2 a.m. reminding Bob of their appointment the next day. On Bob’s nightstand was the phone, his glasses, and his appointment book open to the next day, with a pen nearby. Victoria claimed she never called Bob but someone said they saw her on the phone at 2. Don’t know why it’s important since Victoria was never a suspect but it was explained in great detail.
Lots of suspicion cast on Carpenter due to his quick exit from Scottsdale, things he left behind in Bob’s apartment (like his swimming trunks), his desire to have his rental car (with the incriminating blood stains) “fixed”, and his phone calls back to Bob’s apartment the next afternoon where he didn’t seem concerned that police were answering the phone.
In the documentary during the discussion about whether or not Patty Olson was involved in the murder, it was brought up about the electrical cord being tied “in a bow” like a woman would tie one, even though it’s not in a bow in any of the pictures. I think Victoria had mentioned it being tied in a bow when she found the body, but for some reason it’s un-bowed by the time the crime scene photos were taken. Anyway, just another tidbit.
Carpenter’s widow was interviewed and she said that when the investigation was re-opened in the 90’s and John was (finally) arrested, he called her to tell her and she immediately called Richard Dawson. I guess Dawson and Carpy had remained close through the years. – $Bill
Thanks $Bill. He also sends these new improved Bob Crane Murder Pictures. (Explicit).
Read more about the murder HERE. Thanks to Find a Death friend Jerri for the link.