When the prosecution rests Monday in the trial of Robert Blake, it will have spent five weeks trying to show that the murder of his wife was a project that the veteran actor had spent months rehearsing.
Blake, according to prosecution witnesses, hated Bonny Lee Bakley and saw her as a celebrity stalker who had lured him into a marriage for money.
From the time Bakley got pregnant in the autumn of 1999 until shortly before her murder on May 4, 2001, Blake was obsessed with schemes to get rid of her, according to confidants of the star of the 1970s TV show “Baretta.”
“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,” Blake allegedly told his private investigator, William Welch, a retired Los Angeles police detective.
Blake has pleaded innocent to murder and two counts of soliciting murder. He faces life in prison if convicted.
His defense has tried to poke holes in the credibility of prosecution witnesses and is expected to draw attention to the lack of direct evidence linking Blake to the crime.
Witnesses in the trial said that once his daughter, Rose Blake, was born in June, 2000, Blake decided to keep the baby. But he did not want to raise the child with Bakley.
“He offered her $250,000 to get out of his life, but she didn’t want it,” testified Blake friend Robert David Renzi. ”She probably had more money than he did.”
Blake, 71, and Bakley married in November 2000. According to Blake attorney Gerald Schwartzbach, Blake was Bakley’s tenth husband, and she had married the others for money.
Witnesses said the marriage was part of Blake’s plan to get the baby; a lengthy premarital agreement outlined ways Bakley could lose custody.
After February 2001, when Bakley finished serving federal probation on a phony identification case, three Hollywood associates said Blake tried to enlist them to kill her.
Retired stuntman Gary McLarty said Blake showed him a house behind his own where Bakley was living and suggested McLarty slip in at night through an unlocked back door.
Frank Minucci, an actor who played a mob boss in the movie, ”Carlito’s Way,” said Blake offered a “blank check” to handle Bakley. “I said, ’You got the wrong guy. I don’t do these things,”’ Minucci testified.
Ronald “Duffy” Hambleton, another retired stuntman, said Blake met him at a restaurant on March 11, 2001, and spent hours discussing ways to “snuff” Bakley, including pushing her off the edge of the Grand Canyon.
He said Blake offered him an unregistered gun, and drove around Vitello’s restaurant -- along the same streets where Bakley was murdered -- suggesting places to hide in wait.
Hambleton said Blake called his house only hours before the murder, asking if calls between them that were made with a calling card could be traced.
Blake walked Bakley back to his car on the night of the crime, which he had parked behind a dumpster, then told Bakley he left his revolver at the restaurant, prosecutors say.
Detectives believe Blake slipped around to the passenger side and shot Bakley in the head and chest with a Walther P38 loaded with hollow-point bullets. Police retrieved the handgun from the dumpster the next morning.
Schwartzbach says Blake had a long list of people he hated, just as Bakley had a long list of men she had crossed, but there was no proof Blake is a killer.
But attorney Eric Dubin, who is suing Blake on behalf of Bakley’s four children, said he was confident the jury has heard enough to convict Blake.
“I find it impossible that the jury at this point does not believe that Robert Blake was involved in the murder of his wife,” Dubin said.