Thursday, June 13, 2002
Los Angeles An informant tipped police within two weeks of Bonny Lee Bakley's slaying that actor Robert Blake had offered $100,000 for someone to "bump her off," according to court papers.
The documents, which include search warrants and affidavits, quote witnesses as saying Blake solicited two stuntmen to kill Bakley.
One stuntman told of being taken on a tour of Blake's home while the actor pointed out areas where his wife could be killed. The other stuntman told of being driven past Vitello's Restaurant, where Blake suggested his wife could be shot while seated in a car.
Bakley, 44, was shot May 4, 2001, in a car near the Vitello's, where the couple had dined. Blake said he had briefly returned to the restaurant at the time.
Blake, 68, who has pleaded innocent, is jailed on murder and conspiracy charges. He was arrested April 18.
The hundreds of pages of search warrants, affidavits and an arrest warrant were unsealed after the Los Angeles Times petitioned for their release.
The documents make clear that Blake was the investigators' only real suspect.
The documents allege Blake contemplated killing Bakley since late 1999, when he found out she was pregnant with his child. After the girl was born, they said, he became obsessed with protecting the child from Bakley.
Police waited nearly a year to arrest Blake while they searched for witnesses and physical evidence to support the stuntmen's accounts. They found little physical evidence, the documents indicate, until March when they located a prepaid telephone card that had been used to make calls to the men.
The materials also contain witness statements suggesting Blake proposed variations of murder plans to his bodyguard, Earle Caldwell, and to Bakley's brother, Joe, who did not know the target was his sister.
Caldwell has been charged with conspiracy.
The stuntmen, Gary McLarty and Ronald Hambleton, said they were solicited but turned Blake down.
On Wednesday, Blake's lawyer filed a new bail motion to throw out a special circumstance murder allegation on grounds that prosecutors are using it for the sole purpose of keeping the actor behind bars.
The special circumstance of lying in wait could have been a basis for seeking the death penalty under California law. But prosecutors decided soon after Blake's arrest that they would not ask for capital punishment.