Robert Blake's plot to kill Bonny Lee Bakley
Studio City, CA
May 4, 2001
|Before he could fully comprehend the situation, Stanek thought someone was playing a prank on him, but when he saw the anguish and terror in Robert Blake's eyes he knew something was terribly wrong.|
Blake appeared to be highly agitated, weeping and wailing dramatically:
She's hurt! I need help!
Dear God, someone please help
me! As Stanek
tried to make sense of things, the sobbing actor continued to yell that his
wife "had been hurt" and eventually asked Stanek to call 9-1-1, which he
Accompanied by Stanek, Blake then ran down the street toward his car. In the front seat, bleeding to death from two gunshots, was Blake's wife, Bonny Bakley.
Sean Stanek immediately opened the car-door and moved toward the dying woman to give aid and comfort. Robert Blake immediately ran in the opposite direction.
At the time of
the shocking Hollywood-style, public shooting,
Robert Blake was 67-years-old. Bonny Bakley was 44.
Phone conversation between
BONNY: "I thought, well, I don't know if
I really would want him the rest of my life because he's going to get even
older and worse looking and I'm already in love with Christian who would
you go for? Blake or Christian? I'd probably feel more safe with Blake."
In June of 2000,
Bonny Bakley gave birth to Robert Blake's child.
A brief funeral ceremony was held for Bonny in L.A.
on May 25, 2001.
Walk Bonny Back
It's long been said: If you want to solve a murder
mystery -- step into the victim's shoes and walk backward.
Bonny Bakley was found bleeding to death in the front passenger seat of a black, 1991, Dodge Stealth. She'd been shot twice, once in the right cheek and once in the shoulder. Two shell casings that came from the gun used to kill Bakley were found. One casing was in the gutter near Bonny's open passenger-side window. The other was discovered in a bloody fold between the seat cushion and the seat back.
To this day, the owner of the murder weapon -- a vintage, World War II, Walther P-38 which was later recovered from a nearby trash dumpster -- remains unknown, but the vintage car belonged to Robert Blake.
Open that bloody car door and walk Bonny back. Back to Vitello's Restaurant where she and her husband had just eaten dinner. Back six months to Blake's home -- the Mata Hari Ranch -- where the odd couple was married. Walk Bonny back to a dark hotel room in a Holiday Inn in 1999 where Baby Rose was conceived.
And then walk back to 1998 and you'll find you've returned to the passenger seat of Robert Blake's car, now parked outside of Chadney's jazz club in Burbank -- the car Blake took Bonny to for sex the night they first met. Turn and look at the face of the man who's coming around behind the vehicle.
Murder mystery solved.
Now, walk Bonny back, all the way back to a time and place where she is welcomed, and accepted, and loved.
big, awful, deep, vicious
"You swore to me. You promised
me. You promised. You said, 'don't worry Robert, no matter what, I'll have
an abortion.' That was all a lie. Not a little lie. That's a big lie. That's
the kind of lie that God looks down on and says, 'Hey, wait a minute. Wait
a minute.' That's a big, awful, deep, vicious lie. They don't get any worse
-- Blake's recorded phone conversation with Bakley
"It has something to do with some crazy shit thats going on in your head that you want Robert Blakes baby. And thats all on you, baby, and you have to live with that. You schemed this whole thing!"
Bakley, who had allegedly been wed to over 100 men through "Lonely Hearts" scams, married Robert Blake in a backyard ceremony on November 19, 2000, at Blake's Studio City home -- "the Mata Hari Ranch."
Bonny Bakley gave up all rights to Blake's money and property in a prenuptial agreement.
"Shooting somebody in real life is a whole lot more traumatic than shooting somebody in the movies. What happened is -- his acting ability failed him that night."
-- DA Samuels
the next 10 minutes
Around 7:30 on the evening of May 4, 2001, Robert Blake and Bonny Bakley pulled up near the entrance of Vitello's Restaurant in a vintage, black, Dodge Stealth. Blake -- who would later say he was carrying a gun in fear that his wife would suddenly be attacked -- chose not to use the valet parking service. Instead he decided to park his car around the corner and down the street from the restaurant -- in the shadows, behind a dumpster.
Around 8:30, Blake was seen in the men's room at Vitello's by a patron who witnessed him pulling at his hair, mumbling to himself, and vomiting into a trashcan. When Blake walked out of the men's room, he appeared somewhat agitated, shaky and ill.
Blake did not drink any alcohol that evening, and he did not complain to his waiter or to the owners about the food.
Blake left the restaurant with his wife around 9:30.
"What this trial is ultimately
about -- is what happened in the next 10 minutes."
Blake says the couple had walked all the way to the car when he realized he'd lost his gun, and alone, he returned to the restaurant to look for it. Very shortly after, Bonny Bakley was shot twice with a vintage, World War II, Walther P-38 while sitting in Blake's car.
The 9-1-1 call was placed around 9:40 -- not by Robert Blake -- but by an acquaintance of his who lived across the street from the scene of the dramatic crime.
When police arrived, Blake told them, "I knew this was going to happen. I knew this was going to happen. She was so afraid. That's why I carry a piece. I went to the restaurant for just a minute."
Regardless of how many minutes it took him, not a single person at Vitello's witnessed Blake returning to the restaurant and going to his table to get a gun.
Art Imitates Death
Stephen Cannell wrote the pilot episode that
introduced Robert Blake's career-clogging TV series, "BARETTA" which,
shockingly, has a similar storyline to Mr. Blake's real-life murder plot
against the late Bonny Lee Bakley, who at the time of her death had only
been married to Robert Blake for six months.
Robert Blake faces one count of murder, two counts of solicitation and one count of conspiracy. His handyman/bodyguard, Earle Caldwell, was charged with a single conspiracy count.
Bonny Lee Bakley was born in June of 1956 to a troubled, lower working-class family.
"I was the kid that everybody
hated in school because I was poor and I couldn't dress good... Everybody
always made fun of me because I was a real loner type. So you grow up saying
'I'll fix them. I'll show them. I'll be a movie star.' And it was too hard
because I was always falling for somebody. And I figured, why not fall for
movie stars instead of becoming one?"
"This is what we are going to do. We are going to hire a doctor and get her aborted. And if that doesn't work, we're going to whack her."
-- Blake to William Welch
"They're low-life trailer trash that all made their living working for Bonny in her illegal schemes to scam men."
-- Blake about Bakley's family
The MATA HARI
TRASHING THE VICTIM
Bonny Bakley was given the death penalty. What more do you want? Do you want to tie her rotting corpse to the back of a pick-up truck and drag her body through the streets?
Bakley's not the first woman in history to part a horny old fool and his money. She's more than paid the price for her crimes against those poor, defenseless, confused, dirty old men.
Now -- let's move on to the criminal that opened fire on her, on a public street corner, killing her and possibly endangering other casual bystanders.
Police reveal Blake and Bakley had a bizarre prenup, in which she agreed to stay out of criminal trouble once they got married.
Letters have surfaced in which Bakley accused Blake of cheating on her and she threatened there would be no sex after they were married.
Lying in Wait
"You lied to me, you
double-crossed me, you double-dealt me and that's who you are."
"If that's the way you can live and you can live with yourself doing stuff like that, it's gonna come down on you."
"You swore to me on your life that no matter what I didn't have to worry, and that was a rotten, stinking, filthy lie and you deliberately got pregnant. Your period ended on August 20 and you were out here fucking me on the exact day you were supposed to. For the rest of your life you'll have to live with that and for the rest of my life I'll never forget it!"
Roy "Snuffy" Harrison arranged separate meetings between Blake and two unidentified stuntmen at Du-Par's restaurant in Studio City in March 2001.
Original prosecutors, Patrick R. Dixon and Gregory A. Dohi.
Original defense attorney, Harland Braun replaced by
Harland Braun eventually conceded that he and Caldwell's attorney Arna H. Zlotnik shared office space and that Blake is paying for Caldwell's entire defense.
"Now it's my time to fight.
And I can't fight in that cement room
with thousands of pages that I can't read."
Blake's creative defense team will no doubt pose this question to jurors: If the State's case is such a slam-dunk why did it take police nearly a year to make an arrest? It's a valid point since reportedly much of the evidence was collected in the first few weeks of the investigation.
The Los Angeles DA was being twice shy because they were once so badly burned in the O.J. Simpson debacle. Normally, the arrest follows hard on the heels of naming the chief suspect.
Generally, if a woman who is alone with her husband is fatally shot in the head - the husband immediately becomes the chief suspect.
If, when initially questioned by police at the scene, the husband's response, is to:
fabricate a convoluted alibi,
create several confused and contradictory versions of what happened,
offer up unverifiable suspicions about unknown acquaintances from his wife's shady past,
supply vague reports of mostly unseen but somehow dangerous-looking shadowy figures,
avoid any contact with his still dying spouse,
-- then that husband immediately becomes the target.
"She was putting Kaopectate into
the baby's formula because she didn't like changing diapers."
-- Harland Braun
The first on-the-seen interview of a witness is always the most telling. Even if factually incorrect or incomplete, the initial report captures the witness's freshest, most isolated perception of the events along with any reflexively expressed emotional or situational biases. Investigators consider lies told to a 911 operator or to other first responders, as a clear indication of guilt.
The unnerving shock of experiencing a major crime and the grave nature of the subsequent follow-up by authorities, are completely disarming to the innocent by-stander.
When facing a critical situation, people will tell lies to authorities only when the truth hurts them.
Nobody but the LAPD knows what Blake said in his four hour interview with them, but considering that the fading celebrity is now sitting in jail, it is safe to assume his answers were wholly unsatisfactory.
We do know that he told several blatant lies to police and others, at the scene on May 4. Telling lies doesn't make you a murderer, but it does make you a liar, and as Marcia Clark pointed out a lie is instructive. It points to the truth.
The cardinal rule of crime investigation can be stated very simply:
People lie when the truth will hurt them.
People Magazine reports that Braun considerably lengthened the investigation by insisting "that police fully explore Bakley's background and her disgruntled clients."
Yet Braun has, at the same time, refrained from coming down too hard on Bakley to avoid the predictable backlash that might evoke.
Furthermore, Braun is arguing that what is needed for reasonable doubt is not a particular alternative suspect, but simply the possibility of an alternative suspect.
As he commented to Larry King, "There's an awful lot of people in Bonny's past that would have a motive. Recently, the police asked us for a hitman letter which we had, where someone threatened her with a hitman. They also were investigating another robber in the area. So we really don't we had a number of different theories. There was -- unfortunately, because of her background -- there were just too many theories to prove anything positively."
Andrew Percival and his wife had been dining together at Vitello's on the evening of Friday May 4th during the same time frame that Blake and Bonny had dined there. Mr. Percival explained that he and his wife prepared to leave the restaurant at approximately 9:30 p.m., and that he had seen a man dressed in black who looked like Robert Blake inside the restaurant.
On the walk to their nearby home, Mr. Percival said that he and his wife had seen the same man dressed in black walking very, very briskly past them in the middle of the street toward a car parked behind a Dumpster.
Killer Dreams and Hallucinations
The night of Bonny Bakley's execution-style murder, Robert Blake declined when asked by the police to take a polygraph test. He said he was much too distraught. Blake also purportedly said that he feared that he would fail the test because -- as in the O. J. Simpson case -- he'd had dreams of killing Bonny and that alone might cause him to fail the test.
Gary "Whiz Kid" McLarty
and Ronald "Duffy" Hambleton
In his opening, Schwartzbach said Hambleton once believed there were 20 armed men inside his house, while McLarty "has heard voices from aliens from a foreign planet."
"You will hear both of these men,
upon whose backs this case has been built, have experienced both auditory
and visual hallucinations," Schwartzbach
said. "They've heard voices,
they've seen things and events that never occurred."
Blake called one hitman -- a convicted murderer -- on the day of his wife's killing. He called the same felon that night at 2:37 a.m. after the murder.
Bonny, though, apparently wanted to move most of her business out to Los Angeles and that's one of the reasons she stayed in the back house, because she worked through the night with these kind of activities where she would induce men to send her money and so forth.
-- Harland Braun
Mrs. Blake had an interesting past that seems to have caught up with her."
-- Harland Braun on May 5, 2001, the day after Bonny Lee Bakley was murdered
Why would you hold on to a list for over half a year, that was all but meaningless to you?
A hand-written list was found in the cup-holder of Earle Caldwell's car near a 9-mm German handgun. It is physical evidence that corroborates the stuntmen's stories of Blake's bizarre plot to kill and then bury Bonny Lee Bakley out in the desert. That list, which was saved for over half a year, included:
two shovels, a sledgehammer, a crowbar, old rugs, pool acid and lye
Blake persuaded first wife, Sondra Kerr, to see things his way, a friend of Kerr's alleged.
He simply terrorized her into giving him total custody of their two kids. Once, when she told me that she tried to see them, he forced a gun in her mouth and then to her head, and screamed, 'If you try to see them again, I'll blow your head off!'
She was absolutely terrified of him because he had threatened to kill her on more than one occasion. I think he got his way over custody and the divorce settlement by pure intimidation. He kept the kids and barred her from seeing them again and kept virtually all of their assets.
On another occasion Blake purportedly held a loaded gun to Sondra's head and forced her to tell their children that she did not love them and that she wanted them to remain with their father.
Truth is not a series of explanations; it is consistent human behavior in a given set of circumstances.
Police have concluded that Blake's vicious killing took place inside the car.
It is not clear exactly how Blake managed to shoot his wife in the head and shoulder at point blank range and not be covered with blood. One theory posits Blake just outside the car, sticking the small gun through a slightly rolled down window.
Earle Caldwell told Blake's lawyer last year that he took care of the actor's gun collection, and that Blake didn't own a Walther PPK.
This is the same man who said of Bakley: "She was always in fear of someone killing her. Bonny Lee ripped off so many men -- it was inevitable that one of them would eventually come after her. I saw a letter on a table from some guy who was really ticked off at her. It said something like: 'I'm going to get you for what you did to me.'"
This is the same man that Blake bailed out of prison.
Earle Caldwell told the Daily News that Robert Blake had fired him four days before Bakley was gunned down. If Robert Blake knows he didn't kill his wife wouldn't Caldwell be the next logical suspect? Why would Blake come through with a million dollars bail?
Caldwell also reported that he was out of town the night of the killing.
Rush to Judgment
May 4, 2001 Bonny Lee Bakley, 44, the wife of Robert Blake, was shot dead in her car in Studio City, Calif., as she waited for her husband outside Vitello's restaurant.
May 6, 2001 Harlan Braun, Blake's first lawyer, suggests to the press that Bonny Lee Bakley was killed by a stalker from her shady past.
Schwartzbach said police attempted to create a case against Blake because they wanted to latch on to his celebrity. "The arrest of Robert Blake was driven by the desire for fame," he said.
TV GUIDE, among several others magazines, reported the
reasons for BARETTA'S failure, saying Blake "burned through numerous writers,
producers and staff members, second-guessed nearly every aspect of the show,
fought with the suits and rewrote scene after scene on the set.
Robert Blake himself said, "This show isn't like those other shows. Telly Savalas and Peter Falk and The Six Million Dollar Man all have studio and network brass watching out for them. Baretta was born in a garbage can at Fifth and Los Angeles -- it's an orphan. We just borrow a different pair of step-parents every once in a while, and if they don't do the job, we dump 'em."
A former producer said Robert Blake was "absolutely impossible to work for," adding the actor "turns everything into a war... him against the world."
Blake, who has made no attempt to hide his notorious history of abusive relationships, violent crimes and his addictions to booze and heroin, had this to say about reports of his abusive behavior on the set of BARETTA: "They say I'm difficult? Tough. People are like water; they find their own level. What are all those people who don't like me doing now?"
Bonny Bakley's friend Judy Howell told ABC News:
"I have no doubt, no doubt at all with every fiber of my body that he killed her, killed my friend. He killed his child's mother."
Lidia Benavides -- who worked in Robert Blake'S house for over two years -- divulged that Blake treated Bakley like his personal sex slave and wouldn't even let the maid clean the guesthouse where he forced BONNY to live.
Bakley's half brother, Peter Carlyon said the woman had told her family that Blake threatened her and that he recently had started carrying a gun. "She did not want him carrying the gun because he had been making threats against her. She told the entire family that if anything happened to her, he was behind it."
IF NOT YOU -- WHO?
Blake claimed he was gone from his car less than a minute or two. He claimed he heard no gunfire -- saw no cars speeding down the alley -- saw nobody throwing a weapon into the dumpster and running away. How could that be? He was right there and heard and saw nothing?
How could that be?... because Andrew Percival and his wife saw something. They saw a man dressed in black running toward the dumpster.
It can be proven that Bonny Bakley was shot at close range. It can be proven that Robert Blake was with his wife right up until she was shot and immediately afterward.
That's all the proof you need for murder. It simply isn't reasonable to conclude that "some other dude did it." Not with those AT & T calling card records.
Blake didn't raise his voice, he lowered it to the bottom two notes of his famously haunting voice, and dramatically proclaimed:
"People hurt each other all the time -- But when you hurt somebody deliberately, somebody you care about, rip their f***ing heart out, make them crawl and squirm, thats tough stuff... "
And then his voice goes impossibly deeper, as he indicts, prosecutes and convicts the near stranger he had sex with...
"...the one thing in the world you knew I was terrified of was anybody getting pregnant, and you did it deliberately. Why? Not because you wanted to be with me. It has something to do with some crazy **** thats going on in your head that you want Robert Blakes baby. And thats all on you, baby, and you have to live with that. You schemed this whole thing!"
Blake wanted ROSIE dead and he did all he could to have that baby aborted. It's all on tape and its all comin' in. Most of the tapes were uncovered by Blake's attorneys! Blake ranted and raved and railed to high hell trying to kill his unborn child.
Robert Blake began desperately trying to kill Bonny Bakley. As sloppy and ridiculous as the attempts may have been, Blake was trying his level best to hire a hitman to murder his wife. Let's get real. Blake wasn't covertly calling men named "Snuffy" on an AT & T calling card to discuss a reunion of "Our Gang." He was conspiring and soliciting Bakley's murder.
And if Bakley was such a low-life "scum of the earth" grifter -- why did Robert Blake then sign an extensive PRENUPTIAL agreement? That document alone constitutes abuse.
The once baby hating, father-to-be had legal paternal rights if he was suddenly so concerned for the child's welfare. A marriage was not required. So what was the plan? Why the big dramatic scenario? Why the maneuverings, the moving into Mata Hari, and the menacing machinations?
Bonny Lee Bakley told her family she was afraid of Blake. She thought he was secretly planning her murder. She told her friends that if something strange and horrible happened -- her husband was behind it. She was promptly shot in the head.
Once a reasonable jury is exposed to the on-going pattern of abuse, the phone calls, the hitmen, the large bank withdraws, and the defendant's stunning alibi-deficient performance at Vitello's that night -- they will do what almost every jury does (O.J. SIMPLETON notwithstanding) -- they will convict Robert Blake of solicitation of murder, conspiracy to commit murder, and murder in the first degree.
"I want that guy in 'Carlito's Way' and you're that guy."
"The baby is real, the marriage is not."
"She's horrible. I can't stand her."
"I want that baby come hell or high water."
"She's a scandalous low-life."
"Meeting Bonny was one of the bigger mistakes of my life."
"She's bad news."
"I got to annihilate this bitch."
It's one thing to have sex with a stranger,
It's another to produce a new life;
It's one thing to abort your unborn child,
It's another, to murder your wife.
WE'RE GONNA GO TO THE CLINIC
Robert Blake: "We're gonna go to the clinic and get
that out of the way. You get your legs shaved, get all perked up. I'm gonna
take you up there at 8 a.m."
Desperate to force Bakley to kill her unborn daughter, Robert Blake lied, telling her that he had spent the night in a hospital because he'd begun chemotherapy treatments for cancer.
Robert Blake: "The therapy just wears me out. I guess I'm lucky my hair hasn't fallen out. If this surgery doesnt work out, the end of the trail is just a couple years off for me."
Mr. Blake did not have cancer then, he does not have cancer now, and Blake has never received chemotherapy or any other cancer treatments.
Speaking of the so-called morning after pill:
Robert Blake: "There's a pill you can take, if you want."
Speaking of his own responsibility for his un-born child:
Robert Blake: "I'm not the bad guy here. I didn't lie. I didn't cheat. I didn't hustle. I didn't do anything wrong!"
Robert Blake is accused of hatching a complicated plot to kill Bakley -- a scheme that the LAPD say "evolved over time from plans to have her killed and buried in the desert to her being shot behind an Italian restaurant near Blake's home."
The victim was promptly shot and killed outside of Vitello's -- an Italian restaurant.
Bonny Bakley may have been a low-life swindler and the "scum of the earth", but whoever murdered her was far, far worse than she. I don't believe in conspiracy theories. I don't believe that stuntmen, former police detectives, recorded telephone conversations and phone records are all lies. I do not think the mountain of evidence has all been manufactured in a sinister plot to put Robert Blake behind bars.
Call me crazy, but I believe Robert Blake, the man who desperately wanted Bonny Bakley dead -- shot her dead.
"I'm an old man. I'm pushing 70. If I'm going to die in that box, I want to talk before I go. I want Rosie to see who her Daddy is."
-- Robert Blake
"Excuse me, excuse me. Hearsay! I
prefer the truth!"
--DA Samuels objecting on the first day of trial
Former Actor Charged in Wife's Murder
LOS ANGELES - Tough-guy actor Robert Blake was charged yesterday with "personally and intentionally" killing his wife after a dinner outing last year in a case that could bring the death penalty.
Besides murder, Blake was charged with solicitation of murder, conspiracy and the special circumstance of lying in wait. Under California law, a special circumstance gives prosecutors the option of seeking a death sentence.
Prosecutors said Blake planned last May's killing for at least two months and once considered having her buried in the desert. The actor's bodyguard, Earle Caldwell, 46, was charged with conspiracy to commit murder.
Defense attorneys for the two men were not immediately available to comment.
Blake's wife, Bonny Lee Bakley, 44, was shot to death May 4, 2001, as she sat in her husband's car outside a restaurant where the couple had just dined. The couple had a daughter who will turn 2 in June.
Blake, 68, star of the 1970s detective series "Baretta," has said his wife was shot when he returned to the restaurant to retrieve a gun he had accidentally left behind. He was carrying the weapon, he said, to protect her from threats she received.
But in a criminal complaint, prosecutors said Blake "personally and intentionally" fired the handgun that killed Bakley.
According to the criminal complaint, Blake drove Bakley to dinner at Vitello's, parking his car behind a trash bin a block away from the Los Angeles restaurant.
When the couple returned to the car, Bakley sat in the passenger seat. Prosecutors say Blake "lowered the windows, got out of the car" holding the keys and shot his wife twice with a 9mm handgun.
He allegedly tossed the gun into a nearby Dumpster.
Prosecutors said Caldwell, at Blake's request, kept a list of items for use in the murder that read: "2 shovels, small sledge, crowbar, 25 auto, 'get blank gun ready,' old rugs, duct tape, Draino, pool acid, lye, plant."
Blake and Caldwell were arrested Thursday.
The actor married Bakley after she gave birth to a child she initially said was fathered either by Blake or Christian Brando. DNA tests showed Blake was the father and he married her. But Bakley was relegated to a cottage behind Blake's house.
After the killing, Blake's attorney sought to show that there could be many suspects other than the actor because Bakley ran a mail-order business soliciting money from lonely men who answered her ads in magazines and newspapers.
Police contend one man had the most potent motive - Robert Blake.
"We believe the motive is Robert Blake had contempt for Bonny Bakley," police Capt. Jim Tatreau said before charges were filed. "He felt he was trapped in a marriage that he wanted no part of and, quite frankly, the situation was not to his liking at all."
"She was scum of the earth."
"My prediction is this will never be solved."
-- Harland Braun
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