A big, tough-talking descendant of pioneers, Marley was a wealthy land baron who made millions more as one of Arizona's largest liquor distributors. By the time he died of cancer in 1990 at the age of 83, Marley had made generous cash gifts to Arizona educational and government institutions, including $1 million to the historical society for the museum.
In 1976, Bolles had written stories raising questions about a conflict of interest between Marley's liquor business and his appointment to the state's Racing Commission, which oversaw liquor sales at racetracks. Marley lost his seat on the prestigious commission.
By the morning of June 2, 1976, when Bolles set out on the last assignment of his life, Marley was yesterday's news. Bolles had agreed to meet a small-time hustler and barfly who was boasting he had proof of Mafia ties among a couple of high-profile politicos.
Bolles, professionally wary from his many years as an investigative reporter, was skeptical, but intrigued enough to check it out. Before he left, Bolles, cautious as always, stuck a note in his boss' typewriter detailing who he was meeting and where.
The temperature was already close to 100 and Bolles was warm in his trademark leisure suit--the powder blue one his wife, Rosalie, had bought him for his birthday a few weeks before.
The Datsun was new too. Although it barely accommodated Bolles' lanky 6-foot-3 frame, the car fit his sporty self-image and got good mileage--an important consideration in a household with seven children and a newsman's salary.
June 2 was Don and Rosalie's anniversary and they planned to celebrate by taking in a movie--'All the President's Men."
Bolles did not expect to find Deep Throat at the Hotel Clarendon in midtown Phoenix, just John Harvey Adamson, a smooth-talking tow truck operator who always wore black sunglasses and liked to boast about the mobsters he knew.
But Adamson never showed. As Bolles waited in the hotel lobby, Adamson was outside fastening a pack of six dynamite sticks and a remote-control receiver to the undercarriage of the reporter's car. When the phone rang later in the lobby, Adamson was on the line, telling Bolles the meeting was off.
Walking back to the parking lot, Bolles paused at the hotel pool to watch a little girl splash her way across the shallow end. "She'll be a fine swimmer," Bolles called out to the girl's mother. He gave a jaunty wave and took his last steps to the car.
Bolles folded himself into the Datsun's bucket seat and began backing out of his parking space. A few hundred feet away, a remote-control device built for flying model airplanes transmitted a signal exploding the dynamite beneath Bolles' legs.
The driver's side door flew open and Bolles' upper torso was thrust out the door. Bolles' legs were shattered, his suit ripped from his body, his face blackened by the blast. Incredibly, Bolles was still conscious--and he was talking.
"They finally got me. John Adamson was the man. Find him," Bolles groaned to witnesses who rushed to his side.
Bob Horath was the first member of the Phoenix police bomb squad to arrive at the scene. Bolles was on his way to the nearest emergency room but bits of flesh and clothing were still simmering on the hot asphalt around the car.
"It was a horrific scene," Horath recalls. "But the force of the explosion did a lot more damage to the occupant than it did to the car itself. It was blasted, all right, but not blown to pieces. From the exterior, that little Datsun looked pretty good."
Horath ordered the car wrapped in a giant sheet of plastic and taken to a police garage, where for the next three weeks he and other investigators pieced together the bomb, using not only the car but fragments from the bomb extracted from Bolles' legs.
Before Bolles died on June 13, doctors had amputated both his legs and one of his arms.
"He suffered like no man I have ever seen before," recalls Jon Sellers, the chief homicide investigator on the case. "I went up there to the hospital to interview him and he was totally, completely lucid. This was something I never expected, considering his condition."
Bolles continued to name Adamson, who was arrested and charged with murder after Bolles' death. And, in one of his early interviews with police, Adamson named two accomplices--the man who triggered the bomb and the man who paid him to get Bolles.
Adamson also named Kemper Marley. According to the hit man's court testimony, "Marley wanted Bolles killed" because the reporter had angered and humiliated Marley with embarrassing stories about his past.
Adamson struck a deal with prosecutors and was sentenced to 20 years and two months in prison. James Robison, a stocky plumber with mob connections, was convicted of triggering the bomb and sentenced to death. Max Dunlap, a close Marley friend and associate and the man Adamson said hired him to kill Bolles, was also sentenced to death.