LOS ANGELES – When Robert Blake's (search) wife was slain, detectives searching her living quarters found foot lockers crammed with letters from "customers" of her mail-order sex scam but decided not to investigate most of them, the lead detective on the case testified.
Ronald Ito testified Wednesday that he decided to leave behind most of the letters, which were later discovered by Blake's first attorney, Harland Braun, who publicly revealed them and delivered them to police. Braun contended any of the men bilked by Bonny Lee Bakley (search) could be suspects in her murder.
"Isn't it true the things you seized were only the things you believed would incriminate Mr. Blake?" asked defense attorney M. Gerald Schwartzbach
"I seized what I thought would be evidence," said Ito. "I had 1,251 items of evidence in this case. I had to decide what was pertinent and what was not."
Blake, 71, is charged with killing Bakley, whom he married after learning he had fathered her child.
Bakley, 44, was shot to death in May 2001 in a car outside a restaurant where she and Blake dined. Blake said he returned briefly to the restaurant to retrieve a gun he carried for protection and when he returned he found Bakley mortally wounded.
The detective said his team read some of the letters at the scene and later investigated perhaps five or six "unhappy customers," but cleared them of involvement in the murder.
"Most of them were just unhappy men," said Ito. "I don't remember any of them threatening to kill her."
Schwartzbach asked if Ito investigated up to eight men that Bakley married for their money and then divorced.
"Two come to mind," said Ito, "one in Florida and one in Utah." But he said he found they had been dead for many years.
In other testimony, Ito acknowledged that he never ordered a gunshot residue test of the restaurant booth where the actor claimed he had left a gun — a key element of his alibi.
The gun Blake carried the night his wife was killed was not the one that fired the fatal shots. But its whereabouts are central to his alibi. Blake says he carried it for protection and accidentally left it in the booth, went back alone to retrieve it and then went out to his car parked on a nearby street and found his wife fatally wounded.
"You didn't make the test in spite of information you had about where Blake said he had left the gun?" Schwartzbach asked.
"No, I did not," said Ito.
Ito was asked if he realized at the time that a residue test could corroborate Blake's statement.
"I don't see how that could corroborate that he left the gun," he said, adding that if Blake had handled the gun that night, gunshot residue on his hands could have transferred to anything he touched.