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Blake appeared ‘nervous and agitated’

Witnesses saw the actor at a restaurant the night Bakley died.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Robert Blake appeared nervous and agitated shortly before his wife was killed, two men testified Tuesday at the actor’s murder trial.

Michael Dufficy and Robert Noel said they were frequent patrons of Vitello’s Restaurant, as Blake was, and Noel remembered seeing him there many times. On the night of May 4, 2001, Dufficy said he noticed Blake walking up the aisle.

“He stood out as being quite nervous and agitated,” Dufficy said. “I thought it was behavior that stood out dramatically. ... He was fooling around with his hair a lot, twisting it and making faces as he went down the aisle. I thought, ‘Wow, who’s that?’ And then I realized.”

On cross-examination, Dufficy acknowledged he may have had a preconceived opinion of Blake. He said he told Noel, “Oh there goes that kook, Blake.”

“He seemed nervous and preoccupied,” Noel said in his testimony. “He was messing with his hair a lot, running his hands through his hair, pulling his hair down in the back.”

The 71-year-old former “Baretta” TV star is charged with murder, soliciting others to commit a murder and lying in wait in the 2001 shooting death of Bonnie Lee Bakley, the woman he married after learning he had fathered her baby.

The couple had dined at Vitello’s and then left. According to Blake, they went to his car, where he left his wife briefly to go back inside to retrieve a gun he carried for protection but had left behind. He said he found Bakley bleeding from gunshot wounds when he returned minutes later.

Noel remembered Blake returning to the restaurant in distress and a waiter yelling, “Is there a doctor in the house?”

“It was such an odd thing I think I laughed,” he said. “It was like a movie.”

Soon, he said, Blake went “flying out” with a woman who has been identified as a nurse.

Tuesday’s court session also featured extensive testimony from a criminalist about the retrieval of the murder weapon — a World War II relic that never yielded any fingerprints.

Defense attorney M. Gerald Schwartzbach attacked the handling of the gun by police, suggesting they obliterated any potential evidence by transporting an entire trash bin to a landfill, emptying it and allowing the gun, which was in there, to be buried under lumber, dirt and other debris.

Criminalist Michael Mastrocovo said it would have been too dangerous for him to poke though the debris as it was found because he might have triggered the gun, which turned out to be fully loaded and ready for firing.