The Murder Of Bob Crane: Who Killed Colonel Hogan?


Bob Crane with a Hogan’s Heroes’ thermos, lunchbox, and comic book
Crane portraying wise cracking lady killer Colonel Robert E. Hogan

Welcome to the fourth installment of true crime specials that will be featured on my blog. While sports are a passion of mine so is true crime. I thought these specials would be a good way to shake things up a bit, I do hope you enjoy.

If there is one show my brother and I have seen at least a thousand times over it has got to be “Hogan’s Heroes’”. My Dad watched it so much that Sergeant Schultz’s famous line “I KNOW NOOOOTHING!” was regularly used in our house and we would try to stick stuff in our eye to mock Colonel Klink’s monocle. Bob Crane, Richard Dawson, Ivan Dixon, Robert Clary, and Larry Hovis put together a comical group of up to no good prisoners of war. The show was a huge success and a high point of Bob Crane’s career. Men wanted to be him, the ladies loved him, and someone wanted him dead…. 

Robert Edward Crane was born in Waterbury, Connecticut on July 13, 1928. He grew up in Stamford, Connecticut where he enjoyed listening to music and playing his drums. In middle school Crane use to organize drum and bugle parades with his neighborhood friends. In high school he joined the jazz and marching band. He actually played for the Norwalk Symphony Orchestra as part of their youth program, so it is safe to say he was musically gifted. Crane graduated from Stamford High School in 1946 and in 1948 he enlisted for two years in the Connecticut Army National Guard. In 1949 he married his high school sweetheart, Anne Terzian (whom he would go on to have three kids with) and in 1950 he was honorably discharged from the National Guard. 

After being discharged Crane decided to try his hand in radio broadcasting and got a job with WLEA in Hornell, New York. He transferred to WICC in Bridgeport, which covered the northeastern half of the New York metropolitan area. While there he was discovered by CBS radio and was asked to host their morning show on KNX radio located in Los Angeles, California. In LA Bob Crane dominated the airwaves with his sly wit, drumming, and overall charisma. He was soon having big name guests on his show such as; Marilyn Monroe, Frank Sinatra, and Bob Hope. His morning show quickly topped the charts with adult listeners and Crane became known as the “king of the Los Angeles airwaves”. 

Bob Crane soon decided that he wanted to shift from radio to television and give a shot at acting. His ambitious attitude paid off and he would go on to guest host for Johnny Carson on the daytime “Who Do You Trust”. This opened more doors for Crane and he made appearances on “The Twilight Zone”, “Channing”, “Alfred Hitchcock Presents”, and “General Electric Theater”. After Carl Reiner was a guest on Crane’s radio program he convinced Reiner to book him a guest appearance on the very popular “The Dick Van Dyke Show”. 

After seeing him on “The Dick Van Dyke Show” actress Donna Reed offered him a guest spot on her show of the same name. His character Dr. David Kelsey was such a success that Crane earned himself a spot as a regular cast member. While on “The Donna Reed Show” Bob Crane was still working full time at KNX radio. Running back and forth between Columbia Square and Columbia Studios. He left radio for good in December 1964. By 1965 Crane had become quite the hot commanded. And rightfully so with his good looks, smooth voice, and witty sense of humor. In 1965 he was cast as the lead role in the show “Hogan’s Heroes’”. The show was an instant hit finishing in the top ten on television charts in its first year on the air. The series lasted for six seasons, going off the air in 1971 and earning Crane two Emmy nominations in 1966 and 1967. In 1968 this dirty dog became involved with fellow cast member Patricia Olsen (stage name Sigrid Valdis). She played Hilda on the show and those two were always necking on tv. I can’t really blame her I would probably be sucking face with him every chance I got too…he was a little cutie pie.  

In 1970 Bob Crane divorced Anne Terzian after twenty-one years of marriage. Later that year he married Olsen on the set of Hogan’s Heroes’ with fellow cast member and good friend Richard Dawson serving as his best man. Survey says……. HE IS A SLEEZE BALL! Did you guys get that? Richard Dawson hosted family feud in the 1970’s and he used to say…..never mind, I digress. In 1971 the couple welcomed a son and would later on adopt a daughter. The couple separated in 1977 but family members have said they reconciled shortly before Crane’s untimely death. 

After Hogan’s Heroes’ ended Crane’s career stayed fairly steady. He appeared in two Disney films “Superdad” in 1974 and Gus in 1976. He purchased the rights to the comedy play “Beginner’s Luck”, he began touring as the show’s star actor and director in dinner theaters around the United States. Between theater shows Crane made guest appearances on; “Police Woman”, “Gibbsville”, ‘Quincy M.E.’, and “The Love Boat”. None of those shows were every really my cup of tea but they were all popular at the time. Even know they show tons of reruns of some of the above-mentioned shows. In 1975, Bob Crane returned to television full time with his own series named…. well….” The Bob Crane Show”. Which did not do well and was cancelled by NBC after just thirteen episodes. 

I think Crane also did a television documentary about Hawaii and started on a Canadian show called “Celebrity Cooks” but now we are going to talk about all the freak nasty stuff. Crane frequently liked to film his…. how do I put this delicately…*clears throat* sexual escapades? While filming Hogan’s Heroes’ Richard Dawson introduced Bob to John Henry Carpenter who was a regional sales manager for Sony Electronics, he would often help his famous clients with their video equipment. I think you can guess where this is going. The two men became fast friends and would frequent bars together. Bob Crane would attract many women due to his looks and celebrity status; he would often introduce Carpenter to them as his manager. Later on, Bob Crane and John Henry Carpenter would start videotaping their joint…. *ahem*…. sexual shenanigans.  

Carpenter would often schedule his business trips around Crane’s dinner theater acts so the men could continue recording their female friends. Bob Crane’s son, Robert, would later tell police that all the men’s sexual partners were aware that they were being videotaped. But many of the women would go on to tell the media that they were not aware of the recordings until after Crane’s murder. 

In June 1978 Bob Crane was living at the Winfield Place Apartments in Scottsdale, Arizona during a run of “Beginner’s Luck” at the local Windmill Dinner Theater. After Crane failed to show up to a lunch meeting his “Beginner’s Luck” co-star Victoria Ann Berry went to his apartment to check on him after failing to reach him on the phone. Once there, Berry rand the bell and knocked on the door, after standing there for an extended period of time she let herself into the apartment. She discovered Crane’s body in his bed, his head had been split open like a cantaloupe. Berry immediately used his phone to call the police.  

At the time of murder, the Scottsdale police department was very small and had no homicide division. They were not properly equipped to handle a murder investigation, let alone a high profile one such a Crane’s. The crime scene held little clues and was next to no help in moving forward with the case. There were no signs of forced entry into the apartment and nothing of financial value had been taken, ruling out a possible robbery gone wrong. After examining Bob Crane’s expensive video equipment, the police were led to Carpenter, who had phone to Phoenix on June 25th to spend a few days with Crane. After speaking with Carpenter his rental car was impounded and searched by authorities. Inside the car several tiny blood droplets matching Bob Crane’s blood type were found. Crane and Carpenter were not the same blood type, ruling out that the blood belonged to Carpenter and possibly came from a cut or scrape he had sustained. Nothing further could be researched because DNA testing was not yet available. With no other significant evidence against Carpenter the district attorney decided not to file charges. Bob Crane’s murder case went cold. 

In 1990, detectives Barry Vassall and Jim Raines reexamined the evidence from 1978 and persuaded the county attorney to reopen the case. With DNA testing now available the samples of blood collected from Carpenters car were sent for further testing but the results were inconclusive. While Raines was looking over the pictures from the interior of the rental car, he noticed a spot that appeared to be brain tissue. The actual tissue samples collected had since been lost but an Arizona judge ruled the evidence was admissible. John Henry Carpenter was arrested and charged with the murder of Bob Crane in June 1992.  

The trial started in 1994 during this time Crane’s son Robert mentioned a possible motive for the murder. He explained that in the weeks leading up to his dad’s death he had repeatedly expressed to Robert his desire to end his friendship with Carpenter. Robert stated his dad told him that Carpenter had become “a hanger-on” and “a nuisance to the point of being obnoxious”. Robert claimed that Bob Crane called Carpenter the night before his murder and ended the friendship. The reason being that he just didn’t want people like Carpenter involved in his life anymore.  

John Henry Carpenter’s defense team attacked the prosecution stated that the entire case against him was based off on inconclusive, circumstantial evidence. I mean, unfortunately they aren’t wrong. Witnesses for the defenses testified that they saw Crane and Carpenter dining at a restaurant the evening before the murder and that the two appeared to be the best of friends. They noted that although investigators knew that Crane had been bludgeoned repeatedly on the head resulting in his death, they were never able to identify the murder weapon. The defense further claimed that the tripod theory presented by the police was sheer speculation based off Carpenter’s line of work. They would state that evidence from the crime scene was mishandled and misplaced due to “sloppy police work” and that you cannot conclusively tell the spot in the picture was in fact brain tissue. 

The defense would present their theory that Crane had been videotaped and photographed in many sexual situations with multiple women. They believed that fearing they would be blackmailed with a tape or picture one of Crane’s female companions had been the killer. That is actually a pretty fair theory if you ask me, it’s not impossible. Boyfriends and husbands of the women as well as an actor who had a violent confrontation with Crane months earlier in Texas rounded out the defenses list of suspects. John Henry Carpenter would end up being acquitted of Bob Crane’s murder. He would maintain his innocence until he passed away four years later in 1998.  

The defense would present their theory that Crane had been videotaped and photographed in many sexual situations with multiple women. They believed that fearing they would be blackmailed with a tape or picture one of Crane’s female companions had been the killer. That is actually a pretty fair theory if you ask me, it’s not impossible. Boyfriends and husbands of the women as well as an actor who had a violent confrontation with Crane months earlier in Texas rounded out the defenses list of suspects. John Henry Carpenter would end up being acquitted of Bob Crane’s murder. He would maintain his innocence until he passed away four years later in 1998 at the age of seventy.  

After the trial Crane’s son, Robert (who seemed to be the only one of Crane’s children who spoke publicly about his murder) came forward and publicly speculated that Patricia Olsen his dad’s widow might have had something to do with instigating the murder. In his 2015 book “Crane: Sex, Celebrity, and My Father’s Unsolved Murder” he expressed that the only person who would financially benefit from Bob Crane’s death was his widow Patricia Olsen as Crane’s last will and testament left his whole estate to her, it excluded himself, his siblings, as well as his mom (Crane’s first wife). Maricopa County District Attorney Rick Romley, responded, “We never characterized Patty as a suspect, I am convinced John Carpenter murdered Bob Crane.”

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. The results came back with two sequences. One from an unknown male and the other too degraded to reach a conclusion. Bob Crane’s murder officially remains unsolved today, forty-two years later.   

In 2002 the movie “Auto Focus” based off of Crane’s life was released. 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, 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. Bob Crane and Patricia Olsen’s son Scotty (hey a kid other than Robert is speaking out!) challenged the accuracy of the film in an October 2012 review. Writing, “During the last twelve years of his life, my dad went to church three times: when I was baptized, when his father died, and when he was buried.” Scotty 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. He claimed there is no evidence that Crane engaged in BDSM, that there were no such scenes in any of his hundreds of home movies that depicted any type of BDSM.

In June 2001 Scott Crane launched the website, it includes a paid section that featured photographs and outtakes from his dad’s sex tapes as well as reports from Crane’s autopsy that proved he did not have a penile implant as stated in “Auto Focus”. Weird flex but okay. If you guys are into the freaky deaky shit I am sure you can check it out on the interwebs. Hey, I don’t judge! The nation mourned the loss of televisions beloved Colonel Hogan and still want answers regarding his death today. Patricia Olsen (Sigrid Valdis) was burried next to Bob Crane and the couple share a headstone that simply reads; “Hogan and Hilda, Together Forever”.   

Yes, my dad LOVES Hogan’s Heroes’ and I must be a gluten for punishment because one year I bought him the whole series on DVD. I’m kidding, one of my fondest memories is of the four us; my dad, my mom, my brother, and myself sitting around the TV after eating dinner and laughing at the crew’s crazy antics. It’s a shame Bob Crane’s life ended the way it did, so abruptly with no rhyme or reason at all. 


1 Comment

  1. You know your dad still watches this show. You’re right…..his seen every episode at least 20-30 times. Still enjoys watching the show. In my opinion is one the best TV shows from the 60’s early 70’s.
    Great article. i had heard he was involved in some kinky stuff, but didn’t know to what extend.
    Great article as usual.

    Liked by 1 person

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