Don Bolles Murder

Jim Burdick

John Adamson wasn’t Carl Verive’s only non-Mafia sidekick. Another such local fellow was Jim Burdick, reportedly a business partner of Verive in both a salvage yard on West Buckeye in Phoenix and an area apartment maintenance service. Burdick also was said to have developed considerable skills in electronics while employed for a time by General Semi-Conductor in Tempe.

Adamson and Burdick weren’t strangers either, by 1974 having been introduced to each other by Verive himself as Burdick once explained to Phoenix PD. Burdick was relatively short and slight in physical build as compared to the much larger Verive. Accordingly, as a twosome, they soon became known among many friends, Adamson included, as “Big Carl“ and “Little Jimmy.“ And therein hangs a tale.

Jim Burdick and Carl Verive

A few days after the June 1976 car-bombing of reporter Don Bolles, Adamson was out drinking in Phoenix with a few friends and acquaintances. One of them, Mickey Clifton, happened to be an occasional police informant to keep himself out of trouble. And carelessly, perhaps while a bit inebriated, Adamson made passing reference to someone providing assistance in the Bolles plot as “Little Jimmy.” Clifton, of course, immediately relayed that tidbit to a contact at Phoenix PD.

At the same time, Adamson and attorney Neal Roberts deliberately were starting to float Max Dunlap‘s name around as a supposed key figure behind the effort to kill Bolles. For reasons still unclear to me, detectives in the Phoenix PD Homicide Unit quickly began to focus their attention on another “Jim“ among Adamson’s pals named Jim Robison, as a second suspect. They did so despite the fact that Robison was notably quite sizable himself, certainly not a “Little Jimmy.“ And consistent with how he regularly made a living, his commonly used street moniker was actually “Jimmy the Plumber.“

When some officers in the Phoenix PD Intelligence Unit begin to express serious misgivings about the direction being taken by their Phoenix PD Homicide counterparts in the Bolles case, a highly unusual directive came down from on-high in the department insisting that all future communications between Intelligence and Homicide be conducted only through their respective unit commanders. It obviously was designed to protect the developing misdirection of the investigation under the guidance of the AzAG‘s office.

Determined to get around this curious order, Phoenix PD Intelligence Sgt. Jack Weaver, acting under the guise of becoming a “confidential informant“ to Phoenix PD Homicide, strongly encouraged the latter to take a much more careful look into who truly was “Little Jimmy“ among Adamson’s associates. What resulted was a remarkable police report dated July 9, 1976, which documented that ensuing review. And it necessarily concluded, “It now appears the original information concerning Little Jimmy is not directed towards Jimmy Robison but rather James Burdick.” In the process it noted Burdick’s close ties to Carl Verive as well. A copy of that report is appended below (click links for full size image).

“Little Jimmy” Police Report Page 1

“Little Jimmy” Police Report Page 2

“Little Jimmy” Police Report Page 3

Burdick himself then was interviewed by Phoenix PD Homicide on July 13, 1976, stating the following:

(1) Confirming his relationship with Adamson and Verive, he admitted being aware that the latter was “Mafia” with a reported capacity for violence.

(2) In addition to his own background in electronics, Burdick also acknowledged that he’d “received munitions training and knew about explosives“ from his earlier military service with the U.S. Air Force.

(3) He had a current drinking problem perhaps to the extent of being an alcoholic.

(4) Not only was he not involved in the Bolles murder, he claimed, he also happened to be away from Arizona and waiting in an airport in St. Louis, Missouri, when the car-bombing occurred on June 2, 1976, not flying back to Phoenix until later that same afternoon.

Burdick’s admitted familiarity with both electronics and munitions should have been of particular interest to investigators. Throwing a lit stick of dynamite at someone is one thing. But building a car-bomb capable of being detonated at some distance by remote control electronics is something else entirely. It clearly was beyond Adamson’s skill-set. And it also was beyond that of Verive. Adamson and Verive, in effect, obviously would have needed technical assistance in such regard.

Yet despite all of this, under further pressure from the AzAG‘s office, the official investigation of the Bolles homicide quickly returned to its preoccupation with Dunlap and Robison. In his late 1976 plea deal “confession,“ Adamson was all too willing to support that misdirection of the case.

Pursuing my own interest in Burdick, however, I managed to arrange an interview with him not long after I went to work at the old SCOTTSDALE PROGRESS in 1979. In it he unexpectedly made no effort at denials of anything. Instead, he simply took the position that he was a heavy drinker back in the mid-1970s, an alcoholic even, with no clear recollections of much of anything from that period. “It’s all a blur,” he said.

But I soon learned the Burdick had been far more candid with a few other people. One of them was a girlfriend for a time named Mikki Tidd. A second was Tidd’s sister Jo MacNee who also had been present for some of those conversations. When MacNee attempted to convey what she’d heard to Phoenix PD in March 1980, those handwritten interview notes remain untyped and unprocessed, buried in police files.

Belatedly learning about MacNee from someone else who knew her, I raised the issue with then AzAG Bob Corbin in May 1981. As a result, the suppressed interview notes duly were dug up, finally gaining typed form, and leading to further law enforcement interviews of both MacNee and Tidd over May-June 1981.

Regarding the Bolles case, as recalled by MacNee and included in an ensuing report, Burdick said “he knew the people who had committed the bombing and that Max (Dunlap) didn’t have anything to do with the death of Bolles.” According to MacNee, Burdick went on to explain “that Adamson had just dropped the names of the people convicted for the bombing and that they were not the ones that were really involved.“

In another such report, Tidd in turn noted that Burdick had been keeping a clipping file on the Bolles case, explaining that the “guy” who was convicted (presumably Dunlap) “didn’t do it.” When she asked if he himself had been involved in the actual car-bombing, Burdick replied that “he was told to take a trip and he took a trip at the time it happened.”

When Burdick talked about the Bolles homicide, Tidd added, the name “Big Carl” frequently came up. Her interviewer observed at that point in his report that “Big Carl is believed to be Carl Verive…a close associate of Burdick’s.” Burdick also insisted, Tidd said, that one guy did the whole thing, planted and then detonated the car-bomb, not two men — Adamson himself and Robison respectively — as Adamson claimed. Another informed source similarly told me that it really had been just a one-man job.

Soon thereafter when Phoenix PD confronted Burdick with these latest accusations, he simply denied them. And despite all of the considerable information implicating him, Burdick once again walked away unscathed. Under continuing AzAG office pressure, in fact, there never again seemed to be any serious law enforcement interest in him. It remained business as usual with an official tunnel-vision focus on Dunlap and Robison.

Perhaps typifying this legal travesty, Dunlap eventually was re-convicted by a jury in 1993 of calling for Bolles’ murder, while Robison, the man he supposedly paid to carry it out, was found “not guilty“ by another jury. Dunlap, in effect, would later die in prison for a crime ostensibly carried out by another man concurrently determined not to have been involved, a bizarre contradiction that somehow is acceptable in the Arizona court system.

As time went by, I eventually made one more effort to get Burdick to talk more openly with me, knocking unannounced at his Mesa residence in March 2004. After an awkward few minutes of meaningless chatter through a screen door, he ultimately declined to be interviewed. Tentatively agreeing to talk to me at a later date, he subsequently canceled that meeting as well.

My next and last encounter of sorts with Burdick was in late December 2006 when I attended a memorial service for him at All Saints Catholic Church in Mesa soon after his death. I should note that the parking lot was substantially filled with cars for the occasion, and the service was well attended, evidently in large measure by fellow parishioners who had come to know him through the church. He appeared to have been well liked by a lot of others.

When I had occasion the following month to talk to Fr. Robert Caruso, Burdick’s priest at All Saints Catholic Church, he strongly supported the notion that Burdick, drinking problem resolved while in a good and stable marriage, in his later years, had succeeded in turning his life around since the 1970s and 1980s. According to Fr. Caruso, in non-confessional settings, Burdick readily acknowledged to the priest and friends at the church that he had once been a “bad boy,“ involved with some very bad people and some very bad things. Of all of those implicated in the Bolles homicide, Burdick is the only one who seems to me to have at least partially redeemed his life.

The others involved in Bolles’ murder, of course, are now long dead as well. Brad Funk, Neal Roberts, John Adamson, Carl Verive, Rocky D’Ambrosio, and Frank Mossuto all died some years ago. What began when I started writing for the SCOTTSDALE PROGRESS in 1979 was journalism. More than four decades later it now has morphed into a history lesson. What began as a quest for justice is now simply a determination to reveal the truth.

Now getting quite old and soon to age out of this investigative saga myself, let me offer one final thought. Phoenix can never evolve into a truly mature urban setting in the Southwest until and unless many more people here — both in public and private life — honestly come to grips with the city’s extremely corrupt and violent pass.


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.

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