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Who Killed Bob Crane?

Bob Crane (left) on the set of “Hogan’s Heroes”

Robert Crane was a beloved television actor whose real life had a seedy side and whose death baffled his friends, fans and the police. He played the title role of Colonel Hogan in the ’60s sitcom “Hogan’s Heroes.” He played the role from 1965 until 1971, when the series was cancelled. During that time, he left his wife of more than 20 years for his co-star Sigrid Valdis. He also catered to a taste for promiscuous sex and filming it. After the show, he never found the same success he had with “Hogan’s Heroes.” He instead took up small roles, took to the stage and continued making home pornography. He was on tour with a play when he was murdered in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Before becoming a television star, Bob Crane was a popular radio D.J. in L.A. He worked with ultra-famous people like Marilyn Monroe before he himself became famous. Because of this, he was a woman magnet. He was never without a woman willing to sleep with him or have group sex with him and his friends. Whether they were all willing to be videotaped is not clear. Many of them later said that they had no idea he was filming or taking photographs. It was this ability to pick up women and his love of documenting it that led to his friendship with John Henry Carpenter.

John Henry Carpenter was an electronics whiz with the same sexual appetite as Bob Crane. Together, they would pick up women and take them back to hotels, their homes and other people’s homes, where they would engage in sexual acts and document it. There is no evidence that they were homosexual, but there were rumors that John wanted more from Bob than he was willing to give. Rumor has it that Bob told John he did not want to continue the friendship a few days (or the day) before his murder. Carpenter denied it.

On June 28, 1978, Bob Crane was killed in the early hours of the morning. Someone came into his room at the Winfield Place Apartments in Scottsdale, Arizona and beat him to death while he slept. He was hit in the head with a blunt object, at least once, most likely twice. He never even had a chance to leave the bed. The killer also wrapped an electrical cord around his neck and tied it there. Some believe this was a message regarding Crane’s love of videotaping sex. Another interesting find was a bottle of scotch in the room. According to those who knew him, Crane did not drink scotch. There was no sign of a struggle and no sign of forced entry.

Bob Crane as police found him.

Given the clues at the scene, police believed that Bob Crane knew his killer. It is possible that he let the killer in or that he left the door open for the killer. He may have even fallen asleep with the killer in the room. At the time, Bob Crane was divorcing his wife Sigrid. He also may have had countless enemies in the form of jilted lovers, jealous husbands/boyfriends and angry women who did not know they were videotaped by the star. The list of suspects could have been very long. However, there was no evidence that one of his lovers had anything to do with it. His wife also had an alibi. Sure, she could have hired someone, but someone he knew?

This left police with John Henry Carpenter. He and Bob Crane were inextricably linked in this sordid tale. John got a stream of lovers through his friendship with Bob. He had a lifestyle to lose if Bob were to sever their friendship. The problem with that is there is no evidence they had a falling out — or very little evidence. Police found it suspicious that John called the apartment while they were there — several times — and never asked why the police were in his friend’s apartment. That could be explained by John not wanting to implicate himself it had something to do with their pornography. Much more difficult to explain is blood found in John’s rental car that matched the blood type of Bob Crane. The problem with that is there was no way to test the DNA at the time.

Over the years, John Carpenter was the main suspect in the case, but there was never enough to arrest him. Prosecutors decided to go with a picture of what could have been brain matter in Carpenter’s rental car in 1994. The picture did not hold up in court and he was acquitted. To this day, he is the go to in this whodunit. There is no single other person who draws as much suspicion in this case, but it could be that the possible list is simply too long and varied to pick one out of the myriad of people with motive.  The question remains.  Who killed Bob Crane.

Sources
Wilonsky, Robert, Klinky Sex, retrieved 11/26/11, sfweekly.com/2001-07-18/Cultural/Klinky-sex
Bob’s Cranium, retrieved 11/26/11, findadeath.com/Deceased/c/Bob%20Crane/bob_cranium.htm

About Shelly Barclay

Shelly Barclay writes on a variety of topics from animal facts to mysteries in history. Her main focus is military and political history. She is a writer for the Boston History Examiner, Military History Examiner and the Boston American Revolution History Examiner. She also writes for a local historical society newsletter. Shelly was a professional cook for 10 years and still has a passion for food. She cooks and writes about cooking nearly every day. She produces a wide variety of content, on top of her niches. Shelly is a stepmother, a former military, current veteran wife, sister of four and aunt of seven (so far).

11 comments

  1. Common Sense Will Tell You It Was Carpenter..If Not Him? He Paid Someone 2 Do It? But One Thing Is For Sure…He Was In The Area When It Happened!

  2. My mother who grew up in Germany during WWII (and still had nightmares) was horrified at "Hogan's Heroes." It was only 20 years after Hitler's death that this show went on the air. I've never been much of a Bob Crane fan, but I find the circumstances of his fame and murder very interesting. I've seen the film and I'm certain that John Carpenter did the deed, but not certain enough to convict the guy.

  3. When I was a boy, the man was a Hero to me. Just way too cool for school.

  4. My issue is that there is no veil. Of course he said Auto-Focus wasn’t true. Everyone knows that movie was a Hollywood dramatization of the real events. No one thinks it is a true biography. If everyone launched a campaign to unsmear the name of shoddy movie victims, the web would be full of that junk. As for his son denying the women didn’t know, I am relatively certain his son wasn’t there. You seem to pride yourself on going “straight to the source.” Why don’t you try interviewing those women?

    The problem here is that there is nothing to defend. He doesn’t need a brave defender. Firstly, he is dead and gone. Secondly, what he did is only wrong if you paint it as wrong, which is exactly what you are doing. Unless those women were telling the truth, he is innocent of any and all wrongdoing. Apparently, promiscuity doesn’t fit your model for him, so you are claiming an attempted recovery that only one man mentions – at all. Again, judging by his attitude on the subject, Crane felt the same way I do about it, which is “eh. It’s just sex.” It’s not a big deal. You are making it a big deal by popping onto an article that in no way smeared Bob and only discussed possibly motives for his murder and going on and on about you want to change the public’s perception of him. The funniest part about it is that I never thought of him as a bad guy. Now, you have my readers wondering if he was. Classic!

    • For the record, I am pretty sure there are some really sweet, kind and loving porn stars out there. It doesn’t make them not porn stars. I’m really confused as to what aspect of his “character” you think the media is portraying wrongly. I have seen nothing saying he is a bad guy. All I see is that he had sex, which isn’t portraying him wrongly. It’s true. I’m sorry. I really think you feel like you are on a mission to change a perception that does not exist, except maybe in circles that demonize sex.

  5. Carol, this article does not say he was a radio DJ in passing. It makes little mention of it because it is an article about his murder, not his career. As for it being an “unbalanced” view of his life, well, your explanation is in the narrow topic. This is not a biography.

    I do not believe Bob was seeking help for his “addiction.” According to his own child and widow, he was very candid about his sex life and saw nothing wrong with it, as did many people of his era. In fact, there was heaps of porn in the very room he was killed in. That was the evidence the police used. They never confiscated his home stash, which, judging by his son’s release of it, was quite extensive. I cannot find a single source that says he was committed to “breaking free of his addiction.” He was trolling for sex the night before he was murdered.

    Whether he was talented or caring is irrelevant to this topic. I make absolutely no judgments about his personal life. I see nothing wrong with his fetish, so long as he disclosed his recording of the events. The article simply points out potential motives for the crimes.

    I removed the link from your comment, as the comments section is not for unsolicited promotion. If you care to take up a conversation on the topic and share your site, you are welcome to use the forum. You can also post original sources that state he was changing his lifestyle, if you wish.

    • Actually, he confessed this to Reverend Edward Beck very shortly before he died. Rev. Beck has been interviewed at length and openly explains Bob’s own admission of his addiction and his desire to change. I have spoken directly with Rev. Beck for the purposes of a new, serious biography about Bob Crane. Here are your sources for Reverend Beck:

      [link removed]

      The quotes from Rev. Beck are direct from him to me. Rev. Beck also speaks openly about Bob’s addiction on A&E’s Biography about Bob.

      One does not break free of any kind of addiction overnight. That Bob was “trolling” on the night he was killed does not mean he did not want to change. He was in the very early stages of seeking professional help when he was killed. The reason for my comment was to explain to people that he did much more good in his life than the public has been told. I launched the National Radio Hall of Fame campaign, which has been endorsed by WICC AM Radio in CT, on behalf of his friends and colleagues who want more than anything for the public to know the truth.

      • So, one man, his reverend, says he was seeking professional help. I wonder why anyone would tell their reverend that they were wanting to change their wicked ways?

        Of course one does not break away from an “addiction” overnight. However, the matter of sex addiction is still being discussed by psychology professionals. Whether it is in and of itself a problem is a matter of debate. The truth of the story is that Bob lived during a time when promiscuity was not only the norm in Hollywood, but it was somewhat expected. It seems like some people want to paint him as a good guy struggling to break free from his one evil vice, when in reality, his vice was sex, which is something completely natural. Saying he had a lot of sex doesn’t paint him in a bad light. I don’t see the media saying anything “bad” about him at all. In fact, you will notice this article starts by stating he was a beloved actor. Biases against promiscuity make what wasn’t that bad look bad. I’m sure he was just a dandy guy. However, someone wanted to kill him and it could have had something to do with the fact that he was taping sex with woman. You seem to want people to ignore it and tell the world only what you perceive as good about him. In some ways, his ability to get so many women could be construed as good. He had a real talent.

        Now, there are serious allegations from a number of women that claim he did not disclose the fact that he was documenting his sexual escapades. I would be careful about backing a horse that may have been a serious lawbreaker. Now, the allegations may not be true, but to paint him as a saint with a little morality issue could well be a stretch. Filming people performing sex acts without their permission far exceeds what is excusable behavior when it comes to sex. His frequent sex and taping of it is certainly excusable. I have no idea why anyone would feel the need to launch a campaign to clear his name about something that isn’t even wrong, but given that he may have been quite a jerk, I would err on the side of caution.

        His son said he wanted the same thing, by the way — people to know the truth. He said that his father thought nothing of his sexual exploits. I tend to believe him, given his comfort with his “hobby.” The pictures were a part of the family collection — no big deal. Either way, the bottom line is that promoting a “new” face for Bob Crane might milk a few pennies out of the dead horse and the story needs a new angle. Good luck with that.

      • At no time did I deny that he had what some have called a “dark side.” Nor am I painting a new face – rather, I am lifting a veil on the side that has been obscured by media hype. Secondly, his son Scott has publicly denounced the movie “Auto Focus,” as well as the alleged claims of some women who say they were videotaped without their knowledge. For the record, my information comes first-hand from more than 150 individuals who knew Bob Crane better than most, including members of his family, close friends going as far back as grade school, and colleagues in radio, television, theatre, and film, as well as Rev. Beck, who I trust whole-heartedly. Every one of them claim he was far different than how he has been portrayed in the media, and while addiction is not pretty, it also does not define a person. I know my information is rock solid, and I stand firm on my defense of Bob Crane.

  6. Sadly, what appears in the media today about Bob Crane is an extremely unbalanced view of a very talented, very caring man. Bob Crane did have a very serious addiction; however, he recognized it and was seeking professional help at the time he was murdered. According to the man who was counseling him, he was very committed to changing his life and breaking free of his addiction. Bob Crane was also not just a DJ in passing. He worked in radio and the broadcasting industry for nearly three decades, during which he spent 15 consecutive years. He can be credited with helping shape the radio industry, even though very little of his work in radio has been explored. Because of his extensive work in radio, he has been officially nominated for the National Radio Hall of Fame.

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