LOS ANGELES – An informant tipped police within two weeks of Bonny Lee Bakley's killing that actor Robert Blake had offered $100,000 for someone to "bump her off," according to search warrant affidavits and an arrest warrant released Tuesday.
The papers quote witnesses as saying Blake solicited two stuntmen to kill Bakley and discussed a plan with people including a former police detective who was a friend.
One stuntman told of being taken on a tour of Blake's home while the actor pointed out areas where his wife could be killed. The other stuntman told of being driven past Vitello's Restaurant, where Blake suggested his wife could be shot while seated in a car.
Bakley, 44, was shot May 4, 2001, in a car near the restaurant where the couple had dined. Blake, 68, said he had briefly returned to Vitello's at the time.
The documents alleged Blake contemplated killing Bakley since late 1999, when he found out she was pregnant with a child that might be his. After the girl was born, they said, he became obsessed with protecting the child from Bakley.
Police waited nearly a year to arrest Blake while they searched for witnesses and physical evidence to support the stuntmen's accounts. They found little physical evidence, the documents indicated, until March when they located a prepaid telephone card which had been used to make calls to the men.
Although they seized guns and ammunition from Blake and his bodyguard's homes, none tied him directly to the murder. The arrest warrant mentioned three bullets missing from a rack of 9 mm ammunition. Although there were three 9 mm bullets in the gun that killed Bakley, Blake's lawyer said they were not of the same type.
The documents were unsealed after the Los Angeles Times petitioned for their release. They contained witness statements suggesting that Blake also proposed variations of murder plans to his bodyguard, Earle Caldwell, and to Bakley's brother, Joe, who did not know the target was his sister.
Stuntmen Gary McLarty and Ronald "Duffy" Hambleton said they were solicited but turned down Blake. According to the search warrant, "Blake told Hambleton that if Hambleton would not commit the murder, he [Blake] would have to commit it himself."
Caldwell, who has not acknowledged awareness of any murder plan, has been charged with conspiracy.
The documents said Blake tried to reach another onetime stunt coordinator who had instructed O.J. Simpson on how to use a knife for the movie Frogman. But the stuntman, Bobby Bass, declined to meet him because Bass was suffering from Parkinson's disease. The report noted that Bass later committed suicide.
McLarty, who worked with Blake in the past, said colleague Roy "Snuffy" Harrison told him Blake wanted to get in touch. He said he met Blake at a restaurant, was taken to Blake's house and was shown where Bakley could be killed.
"During their conversation about Bonny Lee Bakley, Blake suggested to McLarty that someone could sneak through the sliding glass door of her apartment and 'bump her off while she was asleep,"' the affidavit said.
McLarty said Blake suggested a fee of $10,000.
Three days later, he said, Blake called his home and "McLarty said he didn't want to commit any illegal acts. Blake asked him, 'Why not?' McLarty said he didn't want anything to do with it and, with Blake's notoriety, it wouldn't look good," the documents said.
A few days after the killing, the documents said, "McLarty called Harrison and said he didn't do it."
The hundreds of pages of search warrants, affidavits and an arrest warrant make clear that Blake was the investigators' only real suspect.
Police Detective Ronald Ito related in his first affidavit Blake's story of what had happened and said he believed "Mr. Blake was trying to hide the truth."
Less than two weeks after the killing, police were contacted by David Attwater, an associate of Hambleton who offered information but said he wanted protection.
He told of strange goings-on at Hambleton's house, where he was staying. There were calls from Blake, he said, and after the killing, "Duffy said they could be expecting visitors, either law enforcement or the person who did it."
The documents said, "Duffy told Attwater that Blake solicited Duffy to assassinate his wife for $100,000." The motive, he said, was his child.
"He wanted to have his wife killed because he feared that his child would end up a porno star or would have a [expletive] life."
"Blake was very desperate to have this done. He wanted it done expeditiously," the account of Attwater's interview said. "Duffy said he was glad he did not get involved."
Hambleton said he met Blake three times to discuss a murder proposal. Once, he said, Blake showed him a pistol, drove him past Vitello's and suggested Bakley could be shot in a car outside the restaurant.
At another meeting, he said, Blake discussed taking Bakley's remains to the desert where a friend would have holes ready.
"Hambleton became concerned that Blake had referred to having two holes dug when only one person was to be buried," the documents said. "Hambleton surmised that the second hole could be for him and he was fearful for his safety."
The arrest warrant concluded that after a nationwide investigation, "No other viable suspects were found."
Blake's lawyer, Harland Braun, said the documents reveal a weak case.
"The whole case turns on talk. There's no physical evidence. ... What's astounding about the case is it's all Hollywood," Braun said.
He said that, if the stories are true, the biggest question is why no one called police or Bakley with a warning beforehand.