It’s summer in Arizona, and an actress arrives at the apartment of television star Bob Crane. Currently appearing in dinner theater, Crane has been hoping for his next big break – but now his career has been tragically cut short. His lifeless body is discovered in the blood-soaked room, with the star himself the victim of a murder that will haunt Hollywood for the next 40 years.
Crane was born in 1928 and grew up in Stamford, Connecticut – located some 40 miles northeast of New York City. At just 11 years of age, he became a drummer, ultimately becoming a part of jazz and marching bands in high school. And Crane would also join two youth music programs to perform with both the Norwalk and Connecticut Symphony Orchestras.
Then, after graduating, Crane spent a couple of years in the Connecticut Army National Guard before receiving an honorable discharge. During that time, he also married Anne, his teenage sweetheart, with the couple going on to have three kids. However, in 1950 Crane started on the career path that would come to define him.
As a broadcaster on local radio in New York and Connecticut, Crane discovered a talent for entertaining. In 1956 he even began helming his own show on CBS Radio’s major Californian station KNX. However, the rising star was harboring ambitions to move into the acting game. And after a successful stint on The Donna Reed Show, opportunity came knocking.
In 1965 CBS was looking for a star for its new series Hogan’s Heroes – a sitcom about the inmates of a German prisoner of war camp during World War Two. And in the lead role of Colonel Robert E. Hogan, Crane was given an opportunity to win over television audiences across the country.
Now, Crane was well on his way to becoming a household name. Eventually, though, the darker side of his personality began to show. Not long after the show started, he embarked on a relationship with Cynthia Lynn, the beautiful blonde actress who portrayed Helga, the secretary of Hogan’s nemesis Colonel Klink.
Apparently, Crane also had a passion for photography – and enjoyed taking snaps of his mistress in a state of undress. However, Lynn later insisted that there was nothing sinister about their escapades. “Yes, he took some nude pictures of me,” she told ABC News in October 2018. “But it was nothing to be ashamed of. There was nothing kinky or weird about it.”
When the first season of Hogan’s Heroes ended, Lynn moved on – but the equally stunning Patricia Olsen, going by the stage name Sigrid Valdis, took her place. And just as her character Hilda quickly fell into a relationship with Colonel Hogan, Crane and Valdis soon grew closer off screen as well.
Moreover, Crane’s indiscretions weren’t just limited to his time on set. Apparently, it was an open secret that there was a dark room in the actor’s family home where he would process nude photographs of women. Crane was reportedly also obsessed with home videos and made a habit of filming the women with whom he had sex.
And according to Crane’s son Robert, Anne knew about her husband’s extramarital affairs. Her patience over the cheating ultimately ran out, however, and in 1970 she and Crane divorced. Then, just weeks afterwards, Crane wed Valdis in a ceremony on the set of Hogan’s Heroes. By this point, though, the actor’s appetites had allegedly begun to get out of hand.
While Hogan’s Heroes was being filmed, Crane met a video equipment sales manager named John Carpenter, with the pair going on to become drinking buddies. And given Crane’s fame, it was never too difficult for the two to pick up women. It wasn’t long, either, before they were using Carpenter’s technical know-how to record themselves in the act.
Then in 1971 Hogan’s Heroes came to an end. And over the following years, Crane took a couple of small roles in Disney movies and starred in his own program, The Bob Crane Show. However, the latter show was axed after only 13 episodes, and the actor’s career subsequently began to veer downhill. Still keen to stay in showbiz, Crane chose therefore to turn to dinner theater.
Crane had bought the rights to Beginner’s Luck, a play focused around a man who is engaged in an affair. And by 1978, after runs in Florida and California, the show was playing at the Windmill Dinner Theater in Scottsdale, Arizona, with Crane himself in the lead role.
Then, on June 29, 1978, Victoria Ann Berry, an actress in the play, arrived at Crane’s apartment in Winfield Place, Scottsdale, to run through the script. But moments later, she sprinted out shrieking. Inside, Berry had seen Crane’s dead body sprawled on the bed, wearing only a pair of boxer shorts.
Apparently, an electrical cord had been tied around Crane’s neck, while two wounds on his head suggested that he’d been struck with a heavy object. Gruesomely, the sheets were covered in blood, and pieces of what appeared to be human tissue could be seen flecked across the wall.
However, the murder investigation was reportedly a disaster from the beginning. Without the resources to properly handle the case, the local police department made a number of errors, such as allowing the scene to become contaminated and interfering with the body. Nonetheless, investigators eventually zoned in on Carpenter as a potential suspect.
Apparently, Carpenter had arrived in Arizona to visit Crane just four days before the actor’s body had been discovered. And when police investigated, they discovered traces of blood in the salesman’s rental vehicle. But even though the samples turned out to be type B – a match for Crane but not for Carpenter – the authorities decided that there wasn’t enough evidence against Carpenter to press charges.
Then 12 years later, Jim Raines, a Scottsdale detective with experience of dealing with homicides, had the case reopened. And Raines subsequently uncovered an additional piece of evidence: a photograph showing what looked like brain tissue on the interior of Carpenter’s rental vehicle. And even though the sample itself had long since disappeared, the photo was deemed to be enough to apprehend Carpenter on suspicion of murder.
At Carpenter’s trial in 1994, Crane’s son Robert stated that his father had tried to end the two men’s friendship shortly before the actor’s death. It was later reported that the suspect was bisexual and that he may have developed romantic feelings for Crane. Meanwhile, the prosecution suggested that the murder had been committed with a camera tripod – although the weapon was never found. Eventually, though, the jury decided that there was insufficient evidence for a conviction and so found Carpenter not guilty.
And over the years, various theories have been put forward about Crane’s death. Did a disgruntled former lover do the deed? Or did the actor’s widow, set to inherit his entire estate, decide to send her husband to an early grave? In 2016 John Hook, an Arizona TV anchor, set out to answer the question once and for all with a DNA test that he hoped would finally link Carpenter to the crime. However, the results were inconclusive – and the mystery of who killed Bob Crane remains unsolved.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the only murder case to have sent shock waves through Hollywood. You see, when Dylan McDermott was only five years old, his mother was shot at home. And almost 45 years later, the actor helped the police to finally identify the culprit.
It’s a cold February day in Connecticut, and Dylan McDermott hears a gunshot coming from his family home. He sees his mother wheeled out on a stretcher; a court later records a verdict of accidental death. Four decades later, he’s a successful Hollywood star – but questions still remain about what really happened on that fateful day.
Dylan McDermott was born on October 26, 1961, in Waterbury, a city some 30 miles southwest of Hartford, CT. As a teenager, he saw movie stars like Marlon Brando and Humphrey Bogart on the big screen and aspired to be like his idols. Then, when he was 15, he got the break that he had been looking for.
His father, Richard, had married Eve Ensler, the playwright who would go on to write The Vagina Monologues. Aged just 23, she adopted Dylan – who was known as Mark at the time – and encouraged him to follow his dreams. In fact, she even created roles in her plays specifically for the teenager to perform.
Touchingly, Eve and Dylan were so close that when she suffered a miscarriage, he began going by the name that she had intended to give to her unborn son. And even though Eve and Richard eventually divorced, she continued to support Dylan in his acting path. Soon, her confidence in him would pay off.
In 1989 Dylan completed his first big role in the disaster movie Twister. From there, he built a reputation as a renowned actor, winning a Golden Globe for his performance in TV series The Practice in 1999. But despite his success, his past holds some dark moments that only recently came into the public realm again.
Dylan’s parents had him when they were young. Mom Diane was just 15 years old and dad Richard only 17. Sadly, their relationship was a short one, and by 1967 the couple were divorced. With Richard out of the picture, Diane moved in with John Sponza, a local gangster well known for his connections to drugs and crime.
In fact, Sponza had committed his first criminal offense at only 15 years old. Over the years, many rumors had built up around him, such as the claim that he had once shot someone in the face. However, his father worked in law enforcement in New Haven, CT, and he seemed to always have his son’s back.
For Dylan, sharing a home with Sponza was tough. According to a friend of Diane’s, the gangster would regularly shout at the boy. Sometimes he would even threaten him with a gun. Meanwhile, he was also abusive towards Diane and would often beat and humiliate her in front of his friends. “I think Dee Dee stayed with him because she was terrorized,” Sharon Rotella told the Republican-American in 2012.
Despite the difficult situation, Diane did her best to protect young Dylan. Apparently, her ex-husband Richard had spent time in jail, and she once warned Sponza that Richard would kill him if the abuse continued. According to Rotella, things got better after that – although Dylan still remembers it as a violent and frightening time.
On February 9, 1967, Sponza kicked Dylan out of the family home. Despite the bitter cold, the five-year-old found himself hanging around outside, waiting to be let back in. But then Dylan heard something that he would never forget. He picked up shouting coming from the house, followed by the sound of a gunshot.
Soon, the emergency services arrived. Diane was brought out on a stretcher, with bandages covering a wound in her head. But even though the injury was fatal, Dylan believed that his mother had merely been hospitalized. In fact, his grandmother Avis kept up the charade for over a year, afraid to tell Dylan and his seven-month-old sister Robin the truth.
In the meantime, police began to investigate Diane’s death. And even from the start, Sponza’s version of events appeared suspicious. At first, he informed officers that he had been in the kitchen at the time of the incident, cleaning his pistol. Diane, he claimed, had been cooking a meal and had shot herself by mistake after touching the weapon.
Then, when speaking to the head of the investigation, Sponza’s story changed. This time, he said that Diane had taken the gun into the kitchen store room and shot herself. However, the location of the gunshot wound did not support his claim that Diane had pulled the trigger.
However, in spite of the evidence piled up against him, Sponza was not charged with any involvement in Diane’s death. In fact, the shooting was recorded as accidental. And for the next 44 years, the matter seemed to be settled. Even though there were rumors that Sponza’s contacts had helped him to escape justice, no convictions were ever made.
Meanwhile, Dylan and Robin had moved in with Avis and were trying to get on with their lives. After a while, Dylan began visiting his father in New York City, where he first fell in love with the silver screen. There, he met Eve Ensler and started on the trajectory that would see him become a successful actor with an award-winning career.
But to do so, Dylan had to gloss over the trauma that had tainted his childhood years. He buried the events of that February day in Connecticut. Then, in 2011, he finally found himself at a point where he was able to confront his past.
That year, Dylan finally got in touch with the authorities. He had questions about his mother’s death, he told them, and wanted them to reopen the case. Accordingly, three officers from the Waterbury Police Department started digging into the old investigation. And soon they realized that something was amiss.
Shockingly, the officers discovered that many official documents from the initial investigation had gone missing. Moreover, it would no longer be possible to quiz Sponza about the shooting. In fact, he couldn’t be asked about anything at all: he had been found murdered back in 1972. His body had been discovered in the parking lot of a grocery store in Massachusetts, stuffed into a car trunk.
Not to be dissuaded, however, the officers spoke to informants and reviewed press coverage from the time. Eventually, they were able to piece together a picture of what had happened in Waterbury four decades before. And just as Dylan had expected, they decided that Diane had indeed been murdered – and that Sponza had pulled the trigger.
Although it is too late for justice to be done, Dylan must take some comfort in the fact that his mother’s murder has finally been solved. And now today, as a recovering alcoholic with two children of his own, he can continue to come to terms with the tragic events of 44 years ago.