Blake arrested in wife's slaying

— Robert Blake and his bodyguard were arrested Thursday in the shooting death of the actor's wife nearly a year ago, police said.

Police officers took Blake into custody at a relative's home in Hidden Hills, a gated suburban community where the actor moved after Bonny Lee Bakley's death.

"We believe the motive is Robert Blake had contempt for Bonny Bakley. He felt he was trapped in a marriage he wanted no part of," police Capt. Jim Tatreau said at a news conference Thursday night.

Bakley, 44, was shot to death last May, a block from a Studio City restaurant where she and her husband had dined.

Police Chief Bernard Parks said detectives will ask prosecutors to charge Blake with one count of murder with special circumstances and two counts of solicitation of murder. Police will seek to have his bodyguard and chauffeur, Earle Caldwell, 46, charged with conspiracy to commit murder.

The chief said there was "physical and significant circumstantial evidence" but gave no details.

Sandi Gibbons, spokeswoman for the district attorney, said prosecutors would review the case submitted by police and announce Monday whether they intend to file charges.

Blake has said that after dinner, he walked his wife to the car and then remembered that he left behind a gun he carried to protect her. He went back for it, he said, and when he returned to the car he found his wife shot.

His attorney, Harland Braun, said Thursday he did not know what evidence police had. Braun said everyone "who ever came in contact with her had a motive" to kill her.

Cary Goldstein, attorney for Bakley's family, said they were pleased with the arrests. He warned against any attempt by Blake's lawyer to raise questions about Bakley's behavior.

The case thrust Blake back into the limelight after years of semiretirement. A former child star, he had his greatest success in the 1970s TV series "Baretta," in which he played a tough-talking cop.

He received accolades for his performance as a killer who goes to the gallows in 1967's "In Cold Blood," and he won a 1975 Emmy for "Baretta," but his career had been stalled for years.

As details of the couple's lifestyle emerged, the story became even more bizarre. Theirs was hardly a traditional marriage. They met at a nightclub and began seeing each other and having sex.

When Bakley became pregnant, she said she was unsure if the child was fathered by Blake or Christian Brando, son of actor Marlon Brando. But DNA tests eventually showed the little girl was Blake's daughter, and his lawyer said the actor felt he had to marry her.

For the wedding, the bride had to get permission from a judge to be released from electronic monitoring in her home state of Arkansas where she was under house arrest for possessing fake identifications. After the marriage, she left the baby in the actor's custody. The pair had signed a temporary custody agreement.

Later, she moved into a cottage behind Blake's home and Blake hired a nanny for the baby.

Blake's lawyer, who was hired shortly after the killing, investigated the woman's past and came up with the theory that there were many men who might have wanted her dead.

Stacks of letters, pornographic pictures and meticulously detailed records showed that Bakley, using many aliases, ran a business soliciting money from lonely men who answered her ads in magazines and newspapers.


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