Besides Grace Wheeler whom Columbo didn't arrest who came Closest to escaping justice?
My vote goes to Tommy Brown. If he didn't take those keys with him he was gone.
The first one that comes to my mind is Paul Galesko from "Negative Reaction". He's also the first one who comes to mind when I think of the murderer I (almost) wish could have gotten away with it.
Columbo is 100% reliant on Galesko reaching for and identifying the "evidence" that Galesko should otherwise know nothing about. Galesko absent-mindingly incriminates himself in a moment's flash of exasperated fury. Just like Columbo needed him to do - and KNEW he would do! I tell you, that Columbo... he's like a little shaggy-haired terrier who gets a grip on a murderer's trousers and won't let go, looking up at the killer with a blank innocent expression on his face.
As for wishing Galesko could have gotten away with it? His wife, the hideous harpy played by the usually incredibly beautiful Antoinette Bower (Make-up really did a number on her to turn her into a nag) was just so awful, I think she deserved an even more gruesome death. (Joking. Sort of.) She treated her husband so incredibly cruelly. And besides, Rob Petrie is just such a wonderfully, nice guy!
And so is Dick Van Dyke. How about him handing out cash to those lined-up job seekers in Malibu the other day? WHAT A GUY!!!
I didn't hear about that but that's great.
Of course Beth Chadwick is almost in a category by herself, because she's acquitted at the very beginning. So whenever she tells Columbo to stop bothering her, she's on really solid ground.
Is it ever made clear why Paul just doesn't divorce his wife and walk away? Staging a kidnapping and then a double murder would surely not be the answer however much of a hell hound his wife was?
As for the question at hand, there are a number of Columbo murderers who are only caught through self incrimination.
Paul Bremmer in Death Lends a Hand, Kay Freestone in Make me a perfect murder and Oliver Brandt for example, all needed to do nothing but sit tight and they may well have got away with murder die to lack of evidence.
In a further line of thinking, I've often wondered how many cases,had they have come to court would have been acquitted?
99% of A Stitch in Crime but the denouement is a little shaley. A defence lawyer would have a field day with the supposed vital piece of incriminating evidence having been found in the arresting officers pocket when every witness in the room saw absolutely no evidence of dissolvable thread being used.
I think a significant number of Columbo's arrests would have walked free from court.
Here's a few.
1. Brenner. He certainly had "the juice" to get away with it IF it wasn't for his timing blunder. I wonder what the director thought after he got arrested. Probably wanted to sign Columbo up for his own team.
2. Elliott Blake was boarding the plane to his new life when he was intercepted.
3. Lauren Stanton had to confess in order to be convicted. Of course had she not done that the police would have continued to harass the hell out of her daughter
4. As mentioned, Dr. Mayfield came extremely close to getting away with it. All he had to do when Columbo shut the door was remove the sutures from the pocket of the OR suit and hide them somewhere else quickly and that would have been the end of that story even when Columbo came back in the room.
Oh and one more. Eric Prince. From Ashes to Ashes. The evidence that Columbo needed was in the helicopter on its way to be spread over the ocean. If that would have occurred, Prince is home free
The way the scene is filmed, Abigail Mitchell has plenty of time to drop those car keys before Columbo approaches. Even if he saw her do that, I'm not sure if even divers could've found them.
(Of course, he would've still found that piece of the title page and the message from Edmund.)
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