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Sleuth in Devore Case Hires Defense Attorney

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The highly praised amateur sleuth whose investigation led authorities to the body of missing screenwriter Gary Devore has hired a criminal defense attorney, saying he now fears being viewed as a possible suspect.

“I don’t want to be Richard Jewell-ed,” Douglas Crawford said Monday, referring to the security guard who was first hailed as a hero in the aftermath of the 1996 Atlanta Olympics bombing, only to be falsely named as a suspect.

Los Angeles County sheriff’s homicide detectives drove to San Diego on Monday to interview Crawford, but he declined through his attorney to be interviewed.

Investigators did not return a reporter’s phone calls to explain their interest in talking to Crawford. But Crawford, an unemployed attorney, offered this motive: “I think I may have embarrassed” law enforcement.

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Last week, Crawford led investigators to a section of the California Aqueduct south of Palmdale, where divers found Devore’s submerged body, strapped in the driver’s seat of his Ford Explorer. Authorities have said they believe the death was an accident.

Crawford said he has hired San Diego attorney Amos Galam to protect him against any accusations and because he did not want to spend any more time on the case.

Galam said homicide detectives last week had requested to interview Crawford on Monday. But the attorney said he left detectives a message over the weekend, saying the interview was off.

“At this point, we don’t think it’s the right thing to do,” Galam said.

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Devore, 55--who had screen credits for “The Dogs of War” and “Running Scared"--was returning to his Santa Barbara County home from Santa Fe, N.M., when he disappeared early on June 28, 1997.

Crawford said he read a newspaper article marking the one-year anniversary of Devore’s disappearance and was reminded of the case of a missing Orange County woman who was later found to have crashed her car into the California Aqueduct.

Crawford hypothesized Devore may have suffered a similar fate and, using information from newspaper articles about his disappearance, set out to retrace his route.

When he came to the spot where the Antelope Valley Freeway crosses the California Aqueduct near Palmdale, he pulled over and began to search the area. There, he said, he found debris from a white Ford Explorer--the same make and model Devore was driving when he disappeared.

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“Mr. Crawford figured out this mystery with two 35-cent newspapers,” Galam said. “He is a very smart man.”

Devore’s wife, Wendy Oates-Devore, said she initially was suspicious of Crawford’s involvement but was put at ease after speaking to him Monday by telephone.

“Who better to take the amount of information you’d find in a newspaper article and put it together,” Oates-Devore said. “I think it was very good reasoning and I’m proud of him.”

Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department officials, who were investigating Devore’s disappearance, said last week that Crawford was an informant, not a suspect.

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A special team of investigators from the California Highway Patrol will use Devore’s Explorer in an attempt to re-create the suspected traffic accident.

Oates-Devore said, however, she is not convinced her husband’s death was an accident.


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