LOS ANGELES – A veteran Hollywood stuntman testified Thursday that Robert Blake offered him $10,000 to "pop" Bonny Lee Bakley and suggested a restaurant among various sites for carrying out the killing.
Gary McLarty is among key prosecution witnesses who say the star of the 1970s TV show Baretta solicited the murder of his wife.
He testified during the second day of a preliminary hearing to determine whether the 69-year-old actor and his former bodyguard will stand trial in Bakley's slaying outside a restaurant in May 2001.
McLarty said he met Blake two or three months before Bakley's killing, thinking it was about a movie job. Instead, they drove to Blake's home where the actor asked him if he could get a gun silencer and then showed him a handgun in a zippered bag.
Blake was complaining about a woman he had impregnated and was trying to get money out of him, McLarty said. The actor showed him a back house on the property where she stayed, and pointed out how someone could sneak in an open door, go up the stairs and "pop her," the stuntman said.
He said they then went for a walk in the neighborhood and Blake suggested the restaurant scenario.
"It was to go out and eat dinner one night, then he would go back to the car and leave, that would give someone the time to go up there and dispose of her that way and then come back to the car," he said.
The prosecutor asked if Blake used the word "dispose."
"Most of the time he used the word pop," said McLarty, who noted that the walk ended when his hip began hurting from an old motorcycle injury and he could not go any farther.
Bakley, the 44-year-old mother of Blake's daughter Rose, was shot as she sat in the couple's car near Blake's favorite restaurant, Vitello's. Blake claims he left her there to return to the restaurant to retrieve a gun he had left behind, then came back to find her mortally wounded.
Blake made pained expressions during some of the testimony and at one point whispered to his attorney, Thomas Mesereau Jr., and shook his head while McLarty was on the stand.
McLarty, who has be in the stunt business for 40 years and worked on shows with Blake, said he initially believed the actor was just "venting." He said he changed his mind when Blake followed up on the in-person solicitation with a phone call three days later to ask if McLarty had considered his proposals.
"I explained to him that I wouldn't do anything like this. That girl didn't do anything to me," he testified.
When Blake pressed him on why, "I said, 'Why? Just your notoriety alone would be a problem,"' McLarty testified. He said Blake abruptly hung up.
Months later, when McLarty heard that Bakley had been killed, he said he thought about it for five days before he decided to go to police because it was "eating at me."
McLarty, who was once investigated in a fatal shooting that was ruled self-defense, was a key witness in another high-profile Hollywood trial. He was the stunt coordinator during filming of The Twilight Zone movie during which a helicopter accident killed actor Vic Morrow and two children.
Blake faces life in prison without parole if he goes to trial and is convicted of murder. Earle Caldwell, a former bodyguard, driver and handyman for Blake, is charged with conspiring with the actor.