Tags: LAPD | Probe | Robert | Blake | Continues

LAPD Probe of Robert Blake Continues

Thursday, 10 May 2001 12:00 AM

In an interview with United Press International late Wednesday, Blake's lawyer, Harland W. Braun, defended his decision to go public with negative information about the victim, Bonnie Lee Bakley, saying it could result in members of the public coming forward with information about her death.

Blake - who has been questioned twice by police - told investigators that he ran back into the restaurant when he realized he left a loaded gun in their booth, and when he got back to the car he found Bakley, 44, shot in the passenger seat. Bakley was taken to a nearby hospital, where she was pronounced dead.

Publicly, police say they have not identified any suspects and do not have a motive in the case, but KCBS-TV reported that Blake -- the star of the 1970s TV crime drama, "Baretta" -- is the "main focus" of the investigation, and that police put little credence in Blake's claim that he and Bakley had been concerned about a recent series of appearances by a mysterious man near Blake's Studio City home.

A cadre of detectives showed up at the Blake residence Wednesday night with a search warrant and moved in as an LAPD helicopter hovered overhead.

KABC television reported that police planned to seize a vehicle on the premise.

As the search went on, Braun arrived on the scene and told reporters that he was not dismayed that police were searching his client's home despite his contention that Bakley's apparently sordid past could have caused someone to want to kill her.

"I want the LAPD to investigate Robert Blake," he said. "The more they investigate, the more they will find out that he didn't do it."

Braun and a private investigator who works for Blake said the man began showing up outside of Blake's home about two months ago. Braun said Blake told investigators about the man after Bakley was shot.

Speaking with reporters outside Blake's home earlier this week, the 67-year-old actor's housekeeper said her boss seemed to be afraid of something lately.

"He always says 'keep the gate locked,' and that's what I do," said Lydia Benavides. "I know he was afraid about something, because he says, 'Keep the gate closed. Don't leave it open.'"

KCBS also reported that police took the clothes Blake was wearing on the night of the shooting, and performed a test to determine if there was any gunpowder residue on Blake or his clothes.

"If he had gunshot residue on his hand," said Braun, "he'd have been arrested by now."

Police said the results of the test had not yet been determined as of late Wednesday. When the results are known, they will not be made public -- but will become part of the police case file, which has been placed under seal.

On Monday, investigators cordoned off a construction site close to the spot where Bakley was shot and examined the property, taking an unidentified item - possibly evidence in the case - with them. One investigator was seen dusting a recycling container for fingerprints.

Police are publicly questioning the strategy of Blake's lawyer in spreading negative background information about Bakley, saying it is "unfortunate that her reputation is being damaged."

Braun defended his choice, saying it could help solve the case and put "the nature of this marriage" in perspective.

"You should see the stuff we have on her," said Braun.

The lawyer said he is "just letting the facts out ... looking for a clue in her background," and that the tactic has prompted many people to contact his office.

"A lot of crazies," said Braun. "Some of it is fruitful."

Braun said Bakley was obsessed with becoming famous -- even if only by becoming involved with famous people, including Blake, Jerry Lee Lewis and Christian Brando, the son of actor Marlon Brando.

"She claimed she was Elvis Presley's girlfriend," said Braun. "We have a concocted picture of her with Elvis Presley. She had a billboard on Sunset Blvd. with her picture and telephone number on it."

The New York Daily News said investigators found dozens of envelopes from around the country, stuffed with money, at Bakley's home -- a small cottage behind the main house on Blake's property.

The paper quoted a Van Nuys, Calif., man, Stu McNally, as saying that he recently got a form letter from Bakley -- asking for $150 to $200 for rent because she had been evicted from her apartment. McNally said he sent no money.

Braun said Blake learned about Bakley's schemes after he married her, and tried to get her to stop, but never notified the authorities.

The New York Daily News reports it has obtained letters in which Blake and Bakley exchanged threats and insults, along with expressions of affection, as they tried to work out their differences over Bakley's past, and her accusations that Blake was not faithful to her.

While the police express concern about the damage being done to Bakley's reputation, Braun said his interest is in protecting Blake's reputation.

"People are maligning him," said Braun.

Bakley's half-brother, Peter Carlyon, told a TV station in Memphis, Tenn., that Blake had recently made a threatening suggestion to Bakley, after she complained that life was "a headache" and she felt as though she would be better off dead.

"He made the statement to her," said Carlyon, "that she didn't need to worry about it, he already had a bullet with her name on it."

Carlyon said Bakley warned him, "If anything happens, he (Blake) did it."

Braun questioned the validity of Carlyon's claim.

"If I thought someone murdered my sister, and I had any information about it," said Braun, "I'd turn it over to the LAPD."

Braun suggested that police might be letting the killer's trail go cold by focusing exclusively on Blake.

"If it's someone from her past that just came out to kill her," said Braun, "if the police don't get lucky they may never solve it."

Braun concedes that his client fits the profile of a potential suspect. In an interview on CNN, he stipulated that Blake was the last person seen with the victim, that he was married to her and that the couple had an often difficult relationship.

"But when (the police) come up with no evidence that he was the perpetrator," said Braun, "then they have to look elsewhere."

Whether she sought it or not, Bakley has gained some measure of fame - as the victim in the latest in a long line of sensational Hollywood crimes.

Bakley married Blake after she gave birth to the baby girl, and DNA tests revealed that Blake was the father. Rose Lenore Sophia - the 11-month-old daughter of Bonnie Lee Bakley and Robert Blake - is reportedly staying with relatives.

Copyright 2001 by United Press International.

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In an interview with United Press International late Wednesday, Blake's lawyer, Harland W. Braun, defended his decision to go public with negative information about the victim, Bonnie Lee Bakley, saying it could result in members of the public coming forward with...
Thursday, 10 May 2001 12:00 AM
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