Some years ago I wrote a piece which ended up on my website concerning the strange January 1977 death of Tom Sanford. He had been reporter Don Bolles’ editor and close confidante at the ARIZONA REPUBLIC in the years leading up to the fatal car-bombing of Bolles in June 1976. In that earlier piece I took issue with the official determination of Sanford’s death having been a suicide, suggesting that it might have been another murder as well.
One of numerous reasons for my suspicions was that Sanford had phoned Rosalie Bolles during the morning of his death, arranging to meet with her the following morning to share with her what he had learned about those truly responsible for her husband Don’s homicide. It is unlikely that he would have set up such an important date with his late colleague’s widow if he didn’t intend to keep it. And he previously had confided to a family member that what he had discovered in his own investigation could put his own life at risk as well.
I recently have found out that Sanford’s date with Rosalie Bolles the following morning was not the only such appointment that he made shortly before his unexpectedly sudden death. Bill Shover, a leading executive in the ARIZONA REPUBLIC publisher’s office, testified under oath before a state grand jury in February 1990. While continuing to insist that Sanford’s death was self-inflicted, other remarks that he made as contained in the ensuing except certainly challenge that conclusion:
As can be seen, Shover acknowledged that Sanford also phoned him on the day of his death to arrange another meeting the following day. From Shover’s testimony, it would seem that Sanford’s contact with Shover must have occurred after he had lunch that same day with former ARIZONA REPUBLIC staff writer Bill Meek to discuss other tangible job prospects in the context of Sanford’a own just accomplished resignation from that newspaper and decision to move on. According to Meek, their essentially upbeat lunch together ended about 1:30 PM, probably putting Sanford back home to phone Shover around 2:00 PM. In turn, documents of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office indicate that only a few hours later by 4:30 PM Sanford’s body was found — a shotgun reportedly wiped clean of any trace of fingerprints including Sanford’s and dropped neatly between his legs, muzzle pointed toward what was left of his head, his car parked nearby, no suicide note anywhere — alongside a remote desert road northeast of Phoenix.
Having found it difficult to believe that Sanford would have killed himself soon after making plans to meet with Rosalie Bolles the following morning, I now find that possibility doubly difficult to accept given his second appointment established with Shover the next day as well.
Let me emphasize that this concern about the actual manner of Sanford’s demise certainly is justified. His death was given a “666” suicide code by the sheriff’s office even before the crime scene technician got there, then immediately “cleared by exception” as a suicide by the sheriff’s office without even pretending to follow standard investigative protocol, and finally rubber-stamped as a suicide by the Maricopa County Medial Examiner’s Office just as quickly and mindlessly. It absolutely reeks of the likelihood of a cover-up. The murder of one journalist was bad enough for Phoenix. The murder of two could have been an unmitigated catastrophe, especially if justice was never a civic priority.
Copyright © 2019 Don Devereux, All Rights Reserved
Journalists, historians, teachers, and students are free to quote from any of this material in writings of their own, provided that they do so with proper attribution and acknowledgement of applicable copyrights.