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Blake’s defense team goes after key witness

Tries to portray former stuntman as a delusional drug addict
/ Source: Reuters

Actor Robert Blake’s lawyers Tuesday opened his defense against charges that he murdered his wife by trying to portray a chief witness against him as a delusional drug addict.

The defense also asked the judge to dismiss one of two charges that Blake tried to hire someone to kill Bonny Lee Bakley, 44, his wife of six months and the mother of his infant daughter.

In the first day of defense testimony in the 71-year-old actor’s murder trial, the wife and son of Gary McLarty, a stuntman double on Blake’s hit 1970s TV show “Baretta,” said that years of cocaine abuse left McLarty with delusions that people watched him from a satellite, bugged his phone and put a tracking device on his motorcycle.

Cole McLarty, 31, said he told a newspaper about the delusions because “I just felt my father, with his drug problem, could have said stuff that was inaccurate and unfair to Mr. Blake.”

McLarty’s estranged wife, Karen McLarty, said her husband used cocaine for most of their 33 years together, but he was  particularly distraught since he was contacted by Blake in March 2001, two months before Bakley’s murder.

McLarty testified last week that Blake offered him $10,000 to “pop” Bakley. Karen McLarty testified that “he said he might lie” on the stand.

The mother and son both testified that Gary McLarty told them Blake had offered $10,000 not to murder Bakley but to have Cole McLarty follow a man stalking Bakley and assault him.

Under cross-examination by the prosecution, Karen McLarty said her husband only discussed lying about his cocaine abuse. McLarty admitted on the stand last week that he lied when he testified at Blake’s preliminary hearing that he only experimented with drugs.

But if the wife and son were so worried about the impact of McLarty’s cocaine habit on others, why, prosecutor Shellie Samuels asked, didn’t they ever contact anyone involved with any of the 136 movies on which McLarty served as a stuntman or stunt coordinator?

Several jurors seemed taken aback when Samuels revealed that McLarty was the stunt coordinator during filming of “The Twilight Zone Movie” in 1982, in which actor Vic Morrow and two children died in a tragic accident.

Mrs. McLarty, a former stuntwoman, said, “There’s a lot of people who do cocaine in Hollywood and it’s not looked upon as (being) that horrible.”

Blake is charged with murder and two counts of solicitation involving McLarty and another retired stuntman, Ronald “Duffy” Hambleton.

The judge agreed Tuesday to hold a hearing later this week on the defense motion to dismiss the McLarty-related solicitation charge.