Bolles car headed for storage, no new home found

Don Bolles's car on display at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. Photo by Jim Small | Arizona Mirror

A piece of Arizona history will once again go into storage and out of the public’s view.

The 1976 Datsun 710 that Arizona Republic reporter Don Bolles was driving when he suffered fatal injuries from a car bomb has been on display at the Newseum, a journalism museum in Washington, D.C., since 2007. A prosecutor from the case and Bolles’s widow had hoped a new home might be found for the car before the Newseum closed its doors for good at the end of the year, but that hasn’t happened.

Instead, the car will go to the Newseum’s archive facility in Maryland. The Newseum, plagued by financial problems, closed its doors for good on Dec. 31. Spokeswoman Sonya Gavankar said removal of the museum’s artifacts will begin on Jan. 2, though there is no firm date set for when the Bolles car will be moved.

Rosalie Bolles, the slain reporter’s widow, said she’s fine with the car going into storage for now. At some point, though, she’d like to see it go back on display.

“I was hoping it could go to some museum or something in Phoenix,” she said.

Though it would be great to see the car return to Arizona, Rosalie said she doesn’t want it to go anywhere associated with Kemper Marley, the rancher and liquor magnate who was accused of masterminding Bolles’s assassination, and whom Rosalie believes is responsible for her husband’s death. 

Marley was never charged in connection with Bolles’s murder. Since his death in 1990, the Kemper and Ethel Marley Foundation has donated millions to charitable and civic causes across Arizona. As a result, his name adorns many museums, libraries, university buildings and other institutions across the state, including the Arizona Historical Society’s Marley Center.

George Weisz, who led the Bolles investigation for the Arizona Attorney General’s Office in the late 1980s and 1990s, said he’s been in contact with the Newseum, and that the most important thing for now is that the car will be preserved and safeguarded. The Newseum loans out exhibits and will continue to do so after its closure, and Weisz said the institution is open to doing the same with the Bolles car.

“They’re not sure what the future holds for the Newseum. They’re looking at a number of options. So, we will see what that brings,” Weisz said. “If someone in Arizona wanted to have the car on display for a proper reason that is in conjunction with the protocols and the mission of the Newseum, they would open to that idea.”

For nearly 20 years, the Phoenix Police Department kept the car as evidence in an impound lot. Following the re-trials of two suspects in the mid-1990s, Weisz sought to preserve the car, and the Newseum eventually made it the centerpiece of a display dedicated to Bolles. With the Newseum’s closure slated for the end of 2019, Weisz had hoped that the car would find a new home and remain open to the public.

Bolles died on June 13, 1976, 11 days after a six sticks of dynamite ripped through the underside of his car as he pulled out of a parking space at the Clarendon Hotel. A man named John Harvey Adamson had lured Bolles to the hotel with the promise of information about prominent Arizona political figures and land fraud. He never showed up to the meeting, instead affixing the bomb to the Datsun as Bolles waited inside.

Adamson would later testify that Max Dunlap, a Phoenix contractor who was close to Marley, hired him to kill Bolles in retaliation for an article Bolles had written that forced Marley to resign from his position on the state racing commission, and that Robison, a Chandler plumber and associate of Adamson’s, had detonated the bomb. A jury convicted Dunlap and Robison, but the Arizona Supreme Court later reversed the convictions. 

A grand jury indicted Dunlap and Robison again in 1990. Dunlap was convicted of Bolles’s murder, while Robison was acquitted.

Jeremy Duda
Associate Editor Jeremy Duda is a Phoenix native and began his career in journalism in 2003 after graduating from the University of Arizona. Prior to joining the Arizona Mirror, he worked at the Arizona Capitol Times, where he spent eight years covering the Governor's Office and two years as editor of the Yellow Sheet Report. Before that, he wrote for the Hobbs News-Sun of Hobbs, NM, and the Daily Herald of Provo, Utah. Jeremy is also the author of the history book “If This Be Treason: the American Rogues and Rebels Who Walked the Line Between Dissent and Betrayal.”