PHOENIX — When Arizona Republic investigative reporter Don Bolles died on June 13, 1976, from wounds suffered in a car bombing 11 days earlier, police quickly arrested John Harvey Adamson.
Officials and newspaper executives said the arrest was only the beginning. They vowed not to rest until everyone connected with the murder had been brought to justice.
But more than 14 years later, only Adamson remains behind bars.
And while the investigation continues, many wonder whether the case will ever be solved, whether the conspirators will ever be punished, whether it's even worth the effort.
Those who knew Bolles and have been close to the case over the years agree on one thing: They can't believe the investigation is still open at this late date.
But their opinions on the probe vary.
Some, like Bill Shover, spokesman for the company that owns the Arizona Republic, believe in the state's original theory: Adamson, a local greyhound breeder, planted a remote-controlled bomb and it was detonated by plumber James Robison. The two were hired by Phoenix contractor Max Dunlap, the theory goes, because Bolles had written articles that damaged the business interests of Dunlap's friend, Kemper Marley.
Dunlap and Robison were convicted in the case and sentenced to death, but in 1980 the state Supreme Court ruling reversed their convictions and they were never retried. Still, Shover said, the state's theory has yet to be disproved.
"All this new stuff that comes up, I don't know where it comes from," said Shover, who testified in January before a state grand jury that has been looking into the case for a year. "They're chasing all these shadows."
In disagreement with Shover is Jonathan Marshall, former publisher of the Scottsdale Progress, a neighboring newspaper that competes with the Arizona Republic.
Marshall, who over the years led a campaign to keep alive interest in the crime, said when Adamson, Robison and Dunlap were charged "most people thought they got the right guys. It all sounded very real."
Since then, Marshall has become convinced of Dunlap's innocence and subscribes to another theory--that the murder was ordered by Bradley Funk, whose family and Emprise Corp. owned most of Arizona's dog racing tracks at the time of Bolles' death. Emprise, now known as Delaware North, was a New York-based sports conglomerate that recently had been convicted of conspiring to hide a Mafia interest in a Las Vegas casino.
"Emprise" was one of the words a wounded Bolles uttered after the explosion. He also said "John Adamson" and "Mafia."
Marley and Funk--both of whom denied involvement in the slaying--were never charged.
Marley, 83, an Arizona real estate baron and liquor magnate, died of cancer June 25 at his La Jolla, Calif., home. Funk, 57, suffered a fatal heart attack Jan. 30 while driving in the parking lot of a Phoenix hotel.
Bob Early, city editor at the Republic when Bolles was killed, labeled Marshall's views "hokum." He considers the reversal of the Robison and Dunlap convictions "absolutely outrageous."
Although a new trial was ordered, it never occurred. Adamson, who had cooperated with the prosecution in return for a plea-bargained 20-year term on a charge of second-degree murder, refused to testify again without further concessions from the state. When prosecutors refused, charges against Dunlap and Robison were dropped and Adamson was retried, convicted of murder and sentenced to death.
His death sentence was overturned in 1988 by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which reinstated the original sentence. After the U.S. Supreme Court in June declined to review that decision, prosecutors asked the circuit court to reconsider.
Meanwhile, Atty. Gen. Bob Corbin said he is more hopeful than he has been in years about the investigation, which was intensified two years ago. Corbin, who did not run for reelection after serving 12 years, knows critics believe he has not done enough to bring the case to a close.
"Contrary to what people say, honestly, we have investigated every lead no matter how ridiculous it may have seemed. Most have gotten nowhere," he said.
This year, Robison, who has been serving a 29-year term for an unrelated assault, was again charged with murdering Bolles. His second trial--which is not expected to include testimony from Adamson--is slated for January.
Dunlap has remained free since his conviction was overturned and has pursued a lawsuit alleging the Phoenix Police Department hid evidence that would have cleared him. Since August, his home has been searched twice by investigators.