LOS ANGELES – One of the lead detectives in the Robert Blake murder investigation acknowledged Friday that he brought an author to the scene of the crime, allowed him to view evidence and shared insights into the case with him.
But Detective Ron Ito said he wasn't courting writer Miles Corwin to make sure a book being written about the case would feature Ito as the hero. He said former Police Chief Bernard Parks gave Corwin access to the robbery-homicide division for the book.
The detective testified on the third day of a preliminary hearing that will determine whether Blake, star of the 1970s TV show Baretta, will stand trial on charges of murdering wife Bonny Lee Bakley on May 4, 2001, and whether Blake handyman-bodyguard Earle Caldwell will be tried for conspiracy.
Later Friday, a veteran stuntman said Blake approached him about having Bakley "snuffed," the third such witness to describe conversations in which the actor allegedly solicited the murder of his wife.
Bakley, 44, the mother of Blake's young daughter Rose, was shot in a car near a restaurant after dinner with Blake. He claims she was shot after he went back to the restaurant to get a gun he left behind.
The questioning of Ito by defense attorney Thomas Mesereau Jr. was reminiscent of the O.J. Simpson murder case, in which defense attorneys put the Los Angeles Police Department's methods on trial.
Mesereau suggested Ito wanted to ensure he would get the glory from the case by giving Corwin access.
"Isn't it true you told a witness you worked on the O.J. Simpson case for a year and never got on TV?" Mesereau asked.
"Yes," said Ito, who is no relation to the Simpson trial judge with the same last name.
"Do you like being on TV?" asked Mesereau.
"No," the witness responded.
Ito said he drove the author to the crime scene, took him on witness interviews and once referred to him as "my partner."
Prosecutor Greg Dohi objected to inquiries about Corwin because "the chief of police ordered him there." He said the author's participation was irrelevant to Blake, but Superior Court Judge Lloyd Nash refused to stop the inquiry.
"Bringing along an author presents the possibility of contamination of evidence," Nash said. "It's fraught with all sorts of problems and it's absolutely a proper area for cross-examination."
District attorney spokeswoman Sandi Gibbons said prosecutors were concerned when they learned of Corwin's presence, "but the LAPD is a separate department and we were told the orders came right from the top."
She added, "It doesn't impact the evidence one way or the other."
Parks is now running for City Council. A call placed by The Associated Press to his campaign spokesman was not immediately returned.
Ito said Parks placed Corwin in the robbery-homicide division in June 2000. Mesereau sought to characterize Corwin as participating in investigations but Ito insisted the author was there to observe.
Ito cited one instance when he told Corwin not to come to an interview because he felt it would jeopardize the investigation.
Department spokesman Sgt. John Pasquariello said Corwin's project was completed before Parks' successor, William Bratton, took over in October.
Ito testified that he expects Corwin's book to be published before Blake goes on trial.
"And you expect that to influence the jury pool," Mesereau said.
"No," said Ito.
Retired stuntman Ronald "Duffy" Hambleton also testified that Blake told him he wanted his wife "snuffed." Hambleton said Blake first broached the subject in a March 2001 meeting that he thought was going to be about a movie idea. He said he was stunned.
"He said he could have the Mafia do the dirty deed but he would be owned by the Mafia," Hambleton said. "He started bringing up my children and grandchildren. I saw that I was expendable in this scenario. So I thought I would string him along with an excuse."
At one point, he said, "I had heard way too much information to feel safe and secure."
"Why didn't you call the police?" asked the prosecutor.
"Well, nothing had happened," said the witness.
In earlier testimony, another stuntman and a retired police detective also said Blake had spoken of wanting to have his wife killed.
The hearing is expected to last at least well into next week.