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Sleuth in Devore Case Hires Criminal Defense Attorney

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The amateur sleuth whose improbable investigation drew praise after leading 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 after the bombing at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, but was then falsely named a suspect.

Homicide detectives from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department sought to interview Crawford on Monday, but he declined through his attorney.

“I think I may have embarrassed [authorities],” Crawford said of his investigation.

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Last week, he led investigators to a section of the California Aqueduct south of Palmdale, where divers found Devore’s body strapped in the driver’s seat of his submerged Ford Explorer.

“I don’t know if they’re looking for a scapegoat,” Crawford said in a telephone interview from his San Diego home.

Sheriff’s Department investigators did not return telephone calls to explain why they want to interview Crawford, an unemployed lawyer. But authorities have said they believe Devore’s death was an accident.

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

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Galam said homicide detectives last week asked 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.

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

Of his client’s role in finding Devore’s body, Galam said: “Mr. Crawford figured out this mystery with two 35-cent newspapers. He is a very smart man. When he gets on to something, he really grabs it and gets to the bottom of it.”

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Galam declined further comment.

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

She said it made sense that someone with law and engineering degrees could solve the mystery of her husband’s disappearance while authorities were stumped.

“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. You get out of life what you put into it, and I think Douglas Crawford is in for some really special things.”

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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 whose car was later found to have crashed and gone into the California Aqueduct.

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

When Crawford 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. He contacted authorities and Devore’s publicist with his findings, prompting an underwater search of the aqueduct.

Within hours, divers found the Explorer, Devore’s body still behind the wheel.

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Santa Barbara County sheriff’s officials, who were investigating Devore’s disappearance, said last week that Crawford was a tipster, not a suspect.

A team of investigators from the California Highway Patrol will use Devore’s Explorer in an attempt to re-create the accident they suspect caused him to wind up in the murky waters of the aqueduct.

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

“I do still have some questions that make it hard for me to understand,” she said.

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The Los Angeles County coroner’s office is awaiting the results of the CHP investigation before releasing information on exactly how Devore died.


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