Trial set for TV star's murder

The Associated Press

PHOENIX As Col. Robert Hogan on TV's "Hogan's Heroes," Bob Crane bamboozled the Nazis and became a ladies' man as a prisoner of war in Germany.

The actor parlayed his on-screen Casanova image into a swinger's life that may have led to his slaying in an Arizona apartment.

Crane's final days will be re-run this week when his real-life sidekick, John Henry Carpenter, goes on trial on a charge of murder. Jury selection was to begin Tuesday.

Crane's body was found June 29, 1978, in an apartment in suburban Scottsdale, where he was appearing in a dinner theater production of "Beginner's Luck."

He was killed by blows to the head with a blunt object. An electrical cord was wrapped around his neck.

Prosecutors were expected to argue that Carpenter crushed Crane's skull with a camera tripod because Crane wanted to end the friendship that gave Carpenter access to women attracted by the actor's fame.

Among the evidence: home video of Crane and Carpenter simultaneously having sex with the same woman.

Carpenter, 66, is free on $98,000 bond. He took his lawyer's advice and is refusing to talk to reporters.

"I never even had a fight with Bob," Carpenter said in an interview last year with the alternative weekly New Times. "He was my friend. And he was the goose who laid the golden egg for me, in terms of meeting ladies."

Carpenter's court-appointed lawyer, Stephen Avilla, will focus on the slim physical evidence. He was expected to raise the possibility that Crane's active sex life could give others perhaps a jealous husband or boyfriend motive for murder.

"We are very comfortable in the defense right now," Avilla said. "John is going to be vindicated."

Carpenter became the prime suspect soon after Crane's body was discovered in 1978. He wasn't charged, however, until May 1992 after a renewed investigation led to evidence that authorities said had been overlooked.

Prosecutors were expected to peg their case on a photo of a dark, irregularly shaped speck about one-sixteenth of an inch in diameter on a door panel of Carpenter's rental car.

Experts who examined the photo the speck itself wasn't preserved said the spot likely was brain or fat tissue. Prosecutors wouldn't comment on their tactics, but pretrial motions indicate the case will depend heavily on the photo.

Police learned early on that Carpenter was one of the last people to see Crane alive. Witnesses told of seeing the two having a "tense" conversation in the week before Crane's death. Blood stains found in Carpenter's rental car were of the same blood type as Crane's.

The murder weapon has never been found.

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