LOS ANGELES – A retired stuntman who claims Robert Blake solicited the murder of his wife acknowledged on the witness stand Monday that he made up a story about the actor offering him $100,000 for the killing and told it to someone as a ruse to catch a "snitch."
Ronald "Duffy" Hambleton's disclosure came out during cross-examination at Blake's preliminary hearing. Thomas Mesereau Jr. cited a police interview of Hambleton on May 21, 2001.
"And you said you had made up a story that Blake had offered you $100,000," Mesereau said.
"I told it to a snitch," Hambleton said, explaining that he figured if the story then surfaced he would know that the man he told it to had been planted in his San Bernardino County home by local authorities to gather information because they thought he was an unsavory character.
The alleged snitch was living on Hambleton's property, which he described as a halfway house for released convicts and others.
Blake is accused of shooting Bonny Lee Bakley, 44, to death in their car after dining at the actor's favorite restaurant, Vitello's, on May 4, 2001. The hearing will determine whether he stands trial for murder and his handyman-bodyguard is tried for conspiracy.
Hambleton is one of three men who claim Blake solicited them to kill his troublesome wife.
Superior Court Judge Lloyd Nash refused to allow extensive questioning about Hambleton's past. Mesereau had said he wanted to show the witness' problems with the law, violence and drugs.
Hambleton has a pending misdemeanor case in San Bernardino County for allegedly brandishing a weapon at a police officer. Mesereau noted the case has been postponed 22 times since late 1999.
In a rigorous cross-examination, the defense sought to show not only that Hambleton lied under oath but that police suggested to him that he make up the solicitation story.
"And didn't the police say, 'You have a date to go to court for your (case). Here's your opportunity?" Mesereau asked.
Hambleton acknowledged that was in the transcript of his interview.
"And were you expecting to get any help from police with your case in San Bernardino County?" Mesereau asked.
"No, I wasn't," Hambleton said.
Quotes from police interviews on May 16 and May 21 of 2001 show that Hambleton repeatedly insisted he knew nothing about the Bakley killing nor about any plan to solicit him to do it, and that he told police several times the only thing he and Blake talked about was a motorcycle movie project.
Hambleton acknowledged telling police, "Mr. Blake never talked to me about killing anyone. He talked to me about movie projects."
At one point Mesereau read Hambleton's own words in which he told police: "Give me two weeks and I could probably come up with who the killer was."
The witness said he told them that because he had been working as a private investigator and thought he could crack the case.
Hambleton also acknowledged telling police: "You've got a bunch of flakes that aren't credible to build your case."
Mesereau also pointed out that Hambleton was an avid reader of supermarket tabloids and had told police he gleaned all the information he knew about the killing from such publications as The National Enquirer, The Globe and The Star.
Hambleton testified that he considers those publications very accurate but said he did not base his testimony on them.
Deputy District Attorney Greg Dohi asked Hambleton why he told police the first story.
"Fear of reprisal against myself and my family and my grandchildren," Hambleton said.
He also said that in the remote area where he lives it is not considered good form to help police.
"Being a snitch is not a good thing?" asked Dohi.
"No, it's not," Hambleton said.
Asked why he ultimately changed his story and implicated Blake, Hambleton said, "I finally made up my mind telling it like it is is probably the right thing to do. ... I believe it is morally right."
"And did you get any stuff you told us from the tabloids," asked Dohi.
"Absolutely not," said the witness.
Hambleton has testified that Blake wanted his wife "snuffed" and solicited him during a visit to Los Angeles and the actor's home, and during two visits by Blake to Hambleton's home.