At the 1994 trial, Crane’s son Robert testified that in the weeks before his father’s death, Crane had repeatedly expressed a desire to sever his friendship with Carpenter. He said that Carpenter had become “a hanger-on” and “a nuisance to the point of being obnoxious”. “My dad expressed that he just didn’t need Carpenter kind of hanging around him anymore,” he said. Robert testified that Crane had called Carpenter the night before the murder and ended their friendship.
Carpenter’s attorneys attacked the prosecution’s case as circumstantial and inconclusive. They presented evidence that Carpenter and Crane were still the best of friends, including witnesses from the restaurant where the two men had dined the evening before the murder. They noted that the murder weapon had never been identified nor found; the prosecution’s camera tripod theory was sheer speculation, they said, based solely on Carpenter’s occupation. They disputed the claim that the newly discovered evidence photo showed brain tissue, and presented many examples of “sloppy work” by police, such as the mishandling and misplacing of evidence—including the crucial tissue sample itself. They pointed out that Crane had been videotaped and photographed in sexual relations with numerous women, implying that any one of them might have been the killer. Other potential suspects proposed by defense attorneys included angry husbands and boyfriends of the women, and an actor who had sworn vengeance after a violent argument with Crane in Texas several months earlier.
Carpenter was acquitted, and he continued to maintain his innocence until his death in 1998. After the trial, Robert Crane speculated publicly that Olson, his father’s widow, might have had a role in instigating the crime. “Nobody got a dime out of [the murder],” he said, “except for one person,” alluding to Crane’s will, which excluded him, his siblings, and his mother, with the entire estate left to Olson. He repeated his suspicions in the 2015 book Crane: Sex, Celebrity, and My Father’s Unsolved Murder. Maricopa County District Attorney Rick Romley responded, “We never characterized Patty as a suspect,” adding “I am convinced John Carpenter murdered Bob Crane.” Officially, Crane’s murder remains unsolved.
Later DNA testing
In November 2016, the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office permitted Phoenix television reporter John Hook to submit the 1978 blood samples from Carpenter’s rental car for retesting, using a more advanced DNA technique than the one used in 1990. Two sequences were identified, one from an unknown male, and the other too degraded to reach a conclusion. This testing consumed all of the remaining DNA from the rental car, making further tests impossible. Authorities tried to get DNA samples from Crane and Carpenter’s remains, but their families refuse permission to exhume them.
Crane’s life and murder were the subject of the 2002 film Auto Focus, directed by Paul Schrader and starring Greg Kinnear as Crane. The film, based on a book on Crane’s murder written by Zodiac author Robert Graysmith, was described as “brilliant” by critic Roger Ebert. The film portrays Crane as a happily married, church-going family man and popular Los Angeles disc jockey, who succumbs to Hollywood’s celebrity lifestyle after becoming a television star. When he meets Carpenter, played by Willem Dafoe, and as a result of their friendship learns about then-new home video technology, he descends into a life of strip clubs, BDSM, and sex addiction.
Crane’s son with Olson, Scotty, challenged the film’s accuracy in an October 2002 review. “During the last twelve years of his life,” he wrote, “[Crane] went to church three times: when I was baptized, when his father died, and when he was buried.” His son further stated that Crane was a sex addict long before he became a star, and that he may have begun recording his sexual encounters as early as 1956. There was no evidence, he said, that Crane engaged in BDSM; there were no such scenes in any of his hundreds of home movies, and Schrader admitted that the film’s BDSM scene was based on his own experience (while writing Hardcore). Before production on Auto Focus was announced, Scotty and Olson had shopped a rival script alternatively titled F-Stop or Take Off Your Clothes and Smile, but interest ceased after Auto Focus was announced.
In June 2001, Scotty launched the website bobcrane.com. It included a paid section featuring photographs, outtakes from his father’s sex films, and Crane’s autopsy report that proved, he said, that his father did not have a penile implant as stated in Auto Focus. The site was renamed “Bob Crane: The Official Web Site”, but is now abandoned. The “official” Bob Crane website was maintained by CMG Worldwide. The website no longer exists.
1961 Return to Peyton Place
1964 The New Interns
1968 The Wicked Dreams of Paula Schultz
1953 General Electric Theater: Episode: “Ride the River”
1959 Picture Window
1961 The Twilight Zone: Episode: “Static“
1961 General Electric Theater: Episode: “The $200 Parlay”
1962 The Dick Van Dyke Show: Episode: “Somebody Has to Play Cleopatra”
1963 The Alfred Hitchcock Hour: Segment: “The Thirty-First of February”
1963 Channing: Episode: “A Hall Full of Strangers”
1963–65 The Donna Reed Show
1965–71 Hogan’s Heroes
1966 The Lucy Show: Episode: “Lucy and Bob Crane”
1967 The Green Hornet: Episode: “Corpse of the Year, Part 1”
1967 The Red Skelton Show: Episode: “Freddie’s Heroes”
1969 Arsenic and Old Lace
1969 Love, American Style: Episode: “Love and the Modern Wife”
1971 Love, American Style: Episode: “Love and the Logical Explanation”
1971 Love, American Style: Episode: “Love and the Waitress”
1971 The Doris Day Show: Episode: “And Here’s… Doris”
1971 Night Gallery: Episode: “House – with Ghost”
1972 The Delphi Bureau
1974 Tenafly: Episode: “Man Running”
1974 Police Woman: Episode: “Requiem for Bored Wives’
1975 The Bob Crane Show
1976 Joe Forrester: Episode: “The Invaders”
1976 Ellery Queen: Episode: “The Adventure of the Hardhearted Huckster”
1976 Spencer’s Pilots: Episode: “The Search”
1976 Gibbsville: Episode: “Trapped”
1977 Quincy, M.E.: Episode: “Has Anybody Here Seen Quincy?”
1977 The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries: Episode: “A Haunting We Will Go”
1978 The Love Boat: Episode: “Too Hot to Handle/Family Reunion/Cinderella Story”, (final appearance)
Awards and nominations
1966 Primetime Emmy Award: Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series–Hogan’s Heroes-Nominated
1967 Primetime Emmy Award: Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series–Hogan’s Heroes-Nominated