Robert Blake, ‘Baretta’ Star Acquitted in Wife’s Murder, Dies at 89
The details of the case could have come from a pulp novel. Witnesses portrayed Mr. Blake as trolling jazz clubs for women, then wooing them in the back seat of his truck. Ms. Bakley was alleged to be a petty criminal who sold nude pictures of herself to lonely men through the mail. She had nine former husbands and a dozen aliases and was on probation for fraud, according to court testimony.
By 1999 she was in Los Angeles. She met Mr. Blake at a nightclub and, as both acknowledged, had sex with him in his car that night. At the time, she was having a sexual relationship with Christian Brando, the eldest son of Marlon Brando. When she gave birth to a daughter, tests revealed that the father was Mr. Blake and not Mr. Brando, whom she had first identified.
Mr. Blake, whose marriage to the actress Sondra Kerr ended in divorce in 1983 after 22 years, said he had agreed to marry Ms. Bakley for the good of their daughter, Rose. According to trial testimony, the marriage was strained, and Ms. Bakley lived in a separate house on his property. Witnesses said he referred to his wife as a “pig” and spoke of wanting to “snuff” her.
On May 4, 2001, Ms. Bakley, 44, was found dead from a gunshot to her head in her husband’s Dodge Stealth, parked outside an Italian restaurant in the Studio City section of Los Angeles, where the couple had just dined. Mr. Blake said he was not there when she was shot; he said he had gone back to the restaurant to retrieve a gun he had left in a booth.
That gun, it was determined, was not the murder weapon; one found in a nearby dumpster was.
By April 2002, the police had nonetheless gathered enough evidence to charge Mr. Blake with “murder with special circumstances,” a capital offense. He was also charged with soliciting movie stuntmen to do the killing for him.
After he pleaded not guilty to all charges, the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office announced it would not seek the death penalty. Mr. Blake was initially denied bail and spent 11 months in jail, until March 2003, when he was granted bail, set at $1.5 million, and posted it, allowing him to remain free for almost two years while he awaited trial.
On March 16, 2005, after a three-month trial in which the stuntmen testified to having been solicited by Mr. Blake to kill Ms. Bakley, the jury decided that the prosecutors had not proved Mr. Blake’s guilt. In interviews afterward, jurors said the stuntmen had not been credible because they had admitted to being drug addicts. Mr. Blake said three restaurant workers had seen him return to get his gun, but he did not produce them.