A former police detective who worked for Robert Blake as a private investigator testified Thursday the actor proposed kidnapping Bonny Lee Bakley, forcing her to have an abortion, and if that did not work, “whack her.”
William Welch’s testimony was the first time the jury in the murder case heard a witness say Blake solicited the killing of Bakley, who at the time was not yet his wife. On Wednesday, the prosecution focused on motive, presenting a witness who said Blake was obsessed with their baby, Rosie, and with keeping her from Bakley.
Welch came under intense cross-examination by defense attorney M. Gerald Schwartzbach, who asked why the veteran policeman would not have reported Blake’s alleged proposal to commit a major crime.
“I was really convinced I had talked Robert out of it,” Welch testified.
Blake, 71, star of the “Baretta” TV series, is charged with murdering Bakley, 44, on May 4, 2001. The two got married months earlier after tests showed he was the father of her baby.
Welch said he had worked for Blake since 1988, locating people, doing background checks and other work. One day in 1999, he said, Blake asked to see him and they took a walk by the river behind his house.
“He told me that he’d met a girl in a jazz club, that they had a one-night stand and she turned up pregnant,” Welch said. “He wanted to do something about it.”
Welch said he told Blake to give the woman money but Blake said he had done that and it didn’t work.
“He said, ’I’ve been thinking about this. We’re going to hire a doctor and abort her and if that doesn’t work we’re going to whack her,”’ Welch testified.
“What did you take that to mean?” asked Deputy District Attorney Shellie Samuels.
“Kill her,” said Welch.
“And what did you say?” Samuels asked.
“I said, ’Robert, that’s not a very good idea,”’ Welch said.
Under the prosecutor’s prodding, Welch added that he said, “Robert, are you out of your (expletive) mind?”
Welch said he again told Blake he wanted no part of the plan, they parted, and Blake called the next morning.
“He said he’d changed his mind. That was not a very good idea and he didn’t want to do that,” said Welch.
Months later when the baby was born, Welch said Blake told him “how he had to get his hands on the baby.” He tried to help Blake by doing a check on Bakley, finding out she was violating probation in Arkansas that required her not to leave that state. Welch suggested they report her and have her arrested.
“He said that wouldn’t work because she was having sex with her probation officer,” Welch said.
The private detective said Blake then suggested planting cocaine in a hotel room where Bakley was staying and have Welch call his police friends to “swoop in and arrest her.”
“I said, ’Real bad idea, Robert,”’ Welch said.
On cross-examination, Schwartzbach pointed out when Welch ultimately told his story to police he said he did not think Blake was talking about killing Bakley when he used the word “whack.”
Later Thursday, Luis Mendoza, a Florida boat dealer who said he had connections with the FBI and the U.S. Customs Service, said a mutual friend asked him to help Blake with a problem the actor was having with a woman. He said Blake flew him to Los Angeles.
He said Blake painted Bakley “as a terrible woman who had done many bad things in life, and he did not want her around his baby ... He wanted me to go back and show the authorities this was a bad person ... He wanted her back in jail or away from his life.”
Mendoza said he tried to contact the FBI about Bakley but was unable to help Blake and was advised by the Customs Service that he did not have enough information to make a case against Bakley and her brother, who Blake claimed was dealing in drugs.
“Robert Blake asked you to contact law enforcement?” asked Schwartzbach.
“Yes,” Mendoza said.
“He never asked you to do anything illegal?” the lawyer asked.
“No,” said the witness.