Bob Crane was an American disc jockey and actor, best known for his performance as Colonel Robert E. Hogan in the television sitcom Hogan’s Heroes, which ran from 1965 to 1971. Crane appeared in a number of other career-crushing shows, including Police Woman, Quincy M.D., The Love Boat, and NBC’s short-lived The Bob Crane Show, which the network canceled after only three months.
“Any other actor in this situation would simply have faded into obscurity” said Benjamin Nettle, senior fellow at the Museum of Television and Radio in Beverly Hills, Calif. “Crane’s lingering popularity can be attributed to the public’s fascination with his personal demons, not his career. Most Americans have trouble remembering who won World War II, let alone how Colonel Hogan fared in the final episode of the series. If there’s still interest in Crane, it’s because of his violent end.”
Popular opinion supports Nettle’s observations. Today, Bob Crane’s legacy is more closely tied to his controversial death than his life as an American television personality.
On the night of June 28, 1978, Crane allegedly called John Henry Carpenter to dissolve their friendship. The following day, Crane was discovered bludgeoned to death at the Winfield Place Apartments in Scottsdale, Arizona. Police never discovered the weapon, but it was widely speculated to have been a camera tripod. Detectives also found semen on Crane’s dead body and presumed that the murderer may have ejaculated on the corpose after the killing. Subsequent investigations exposed the actor’s deviant sexual predilections and his obsession with pornography, which stoked the already blazing fire of public outrage and curiosity. But without sufficient evidence, meaningful leads, a motive or even a suspect, the case was shelved.
In 1992, 14 years after the murder, the case was reopened. Carpenter was arrested and indicted, despite the lack of convicting evidence. He was eventually acquitted two years later and maintained his innocence until his death on September 4, 1998.
For nearly four decades, the murder has ranked among Hollywood’s most famous unsolved cases. That is until last week when a new breed of technologically savvy criminologists at the University of California, Irvine, petitioned to open the case again. The collected evidence was reexamined using computer modeling, digital re-enactments, DNA testing and advanced forensic techniques. The head examiner released these findings to the media this afternoon:
“Bob Crane. There were certainly a lot of theories. Some say an ex-girl friend did him in. Some say he masturbated himself to death. Some say the friends of Crane, who were forced to watch volumes of pornography with him while he pleasured himself, are to blame. But that’s not what happened. This was not a murder.”
The examiner concluded, “The semen was clearly Crane’s. He kept vials of the stuff all over the place. One of them must have broken in the accident. Crane committed suicide, that’s the long and short of it. He beat himself to death with a hammer. And that’s a difficult thing to do. Takes hours. And a lot of patience.”