Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods
Acquitted?!
John Henry Carpenter
John Henry Carpenter
In June 1978, an actress in a dinner theater production starring former Hogan's Heroes star Bob Crane (left) discovered Crane's body in his apartment in Scottsdale, Ariz. Crane had been bludgeoned to death by an undetermined object and electrical cord wrapped around his neck. Since there was no sign of struggle or forced entry, it was assumed Crane knew his attacker, and the focus of the investigation quickly fell on Crane's friend, video salesman John Carpenter (right). Carpenter and Crane shared an interest in videotaping their sexual conquests, and Carpenter had helped Crane equip himself with the video equipment he needed for such pursuits. The sexually-charged nature of this shared interest increased police suspicion, along with Carpenter's nonchalant attitude the day Crane's body was discovered, and it was established that Carpenter had been one of the last people to see Crane alive. The only physical evidence police had linking Carpenter to the death, though, was a blood smear in Carpenter's rental car which matched Crane's blood type. In the days before DNA testing, this was at best circumstantial evidence. It was not until 1992, bolstered by evidence suggesting that the murder weapon had been a video tripod taken from the crime scene that prosecutors felt confident enough to charge Carpenter.

At trial in 1994, though, it became clear that the evidence had not aged well. A photograph showing what prosecutors believed to be Crane's tissue on Carpenter's car was credibly refuted by defense experts, and other suspects were proposed, including Crane's ex-wife. Carpenter was acquitted and denied any involvement until his death in 1998.

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