Thursday, February 27, 2003
Los Angeles A retired homicide detective testified Wednesday that actor Robert Blake told him in 1999 that he had impregnated a woman during a one-night stand and he wanted her abducted to undergo an abortion, and if that failed, to have her killed.
"He said, 'We're going to hire a doctor, we're going to abort her, and if that doesn't work, we're going to whack her," William Welch testified during a preliminary hearing to determine whether Blake must stand trial on charges of murdering his wife, Bonny Lee Bakley.
Bakley, 44, was shot as she sat in the couple's car near Blake's favorite restaurant, Vitello's, where they dined on May 4, 2001. Blake, 69, has claimed he went back into the restaurant to retrieve a gun he carried for protection and found Bakley shot when he returned to the car.
Welch, who became a private detective in 1985 after 21 years as a Los Angeles police officer, said the actor described the plan in October 1999 during a walk by the Los Angeles River.
Welch said he had done private detective work for Blake and had become friends with him by the time of the conversation.
"He looked me in the eye, and I believed him," said Welch, who testified he refused to carry out the plot.
On cross-examination, Blake's lawyer, Thomas Mesereau Jr., noted that the investigator continued to work for the actor for more than a year on various aspects of his relationship with Bakley.
Welch denied Mesereau's assertion that in his mind he was "working for a potential killer," insisting that he believed he had talked Blake out of the plan.
Earlier in the day, Blake sat grimly as prosecutors played a taped phone call in which the actor berated his wife for getting pregnant.
"You lied to me. You double-crossed me. You double-dealt me, and that's who you are," the former "Baretta" star told Bakley.
On the tape, Bakley sniffled and cried as she insisted her only concern was to stay with Blake.
"All I ever wanted was to be with you," she said.
Blake urged her to get an abortion, suggesting "a pill from France."
In other testimony, police Sgt. Charles Knolls testified that a diner who saw Blake and Bakley the night of the slaying reported that the actor looked nervous, appeared to be hyperventilating and asked someone for water.
At the hearing, Blake's lawyer challenged a coroner's work on the autopsy. Deputy Medical Examiner Jeffrey Gutstadt testified that a bullet that went through Bakley's cheek was fired in a slightly upward direction.
In a long cross-examination, Mesereau suggested the autopsy never exactly established Bakley's position when she was shot, the height of her assailant, or which of the two shots that killed her came first.
The coroner testified that Bakley was killed by one bullet that went through her right cheek and into her brain and another bullet that entered through her right shoulder. He noted that there were no defensive wounds on Bakley's arms.
The prosecution's key witnesses are expected to be two former Hollywood stuntmen who say Blake tried to pay them to kill Bakley. When that failed, prosecutors say, the actor shot her himself.
Earle Caldwell, a former bodyguard, driver and handyman for Blake, is charged with conspiring with the actor.
Blake faces life in prison without parole if convicted.