LOS ANGELES – Two regulars at the restaurant where Robert Blake (search) ate his last meal with his wife testified that the actor appeared nervous, agitated and "was messing with his hair a lot" shortly before she was killed.
Michael Dufficy and Robert Noel took the stand Tuesday in Blake's murder trial, telling jurors they — like Blake — were frequent diners at Vitello's Restaurant (search). Noel said he and Dufficy ate at Vitello's at least three times a week, as did Blake.
On the night of May 4, 2001, when Bonny Lee Bakley (search) was fatally shot, Dufficy told the court that he noticed Blake walking up the restaurant's aisle between the booths.
"He stood out as being quite nervous and agitated," Dufficy said. "I thought it was behavior that stood out dramatically. ... He was fooling around with his hair a lot, twisting it and making faces as he went down the aisle. I thought, 'Wow, who's that?' And then I realized."
On cross-examination, Dufficy acknowledged he may have had a preconceived opinion of Blake that colored his perception. He said he told Noel, "Oh there goes that kook, Blake."
Noel testified that he noticed Blake, too. "He seemed nervous and preoccupied. He was messing with his hair a lot, running his hands through his hair, pulling his hair down in the back. "
Defense attorney M. Gerald Schwartzbach asked, "Is it fair to say you didn't know Mr. Blake well enough to say he was upset or he always acted the way he did that evening?"
"Correct," said Noel.
The 71-year-old former "Baretta" TV star is charged with murder, soliciting others to commit a murder and lying in wait in the 2001 shooting death of Bakley, the woman he married after learning he had fathered her baby.
The couple had dined at Vitello's and then left. According to Blake, they went to his car, where he left his wife briefly to go back inside to retrieve a gun he carried for protection but had left behind. He said he found Bakley bleeding from gunshot wounds when he returned minutes later.
Noel said he remembered Blake returning to the restaurant in distress and a waiter yelling, "Is there a doctor in the house?"
Soon, he said, Blake went "flying out" with a woman who has been identified as a nurse. Soon after that, he and Dufficy finished their meal and left.
Outside, they said, they encountered a couple who told them what was happening.
"The couple said they saw a woman in a car and there was blood," said Dufficy. "Well, I don't need to see blood and I'm not an ambulance chaser type and it was nothing to do with me, so we turned and left."