Blake Defense Tries to Discredit Witness

Robert Blake's (search) attorney suggested that the state's star witness made up his story after reading tabloid accounts about the killing of the actor's wife, Bonny Lee Bakley (search).

The cross-examination Thursday came as part of a defense effort to undermine Ronald "Duffy" Hambleton's account that Blake plotted numerous scenarios for killing Bakley before she was shot to death while sitting in his car on May 4, 2001.

Hambleton acknowledged he did not know the name of Blake's handyman, Earle Caldwell, before he read it in the tabloids, despite his testimony Wednesday that he and Blake discussed "Earle" as a person who might dig holes to bury Bakley after she was murdered.

Hambleton, who worked with Blake on the 1970s TV detective drama "Baretta," (search) also acknowledged that when he first talked to police about the case he never said that Blake used the word "snuffed" in describing what he wanted done to Bakley.

In a January 2002, interview quoted by the defense, Hambleton said, "It was his usual 'Baretta'-style talk dialogue — 'I need to blow her away' or something like that."

"So you could not recall the exact words that Mr. Blake used?" asked defense attorney M. Gerald Schwartzbach.

"I was asked what words he used and I couldn't recall because he used many different adjectives for how he wanted her taken care of, that is correct," Hambleton said. "I'm not sure what word that was."

Hambleton said under questioning from Deputy District Attorney Shellie Samuels that Blake had asked him what he would charge to kill Bakley, but the conversation went no further because Hambleton was determined not to get involved in the plot.

"I told him there was no reason to go into any price structure because I wasn't sure I would be the one going into this situation," he said.

The witness also said he was worried about his children and grandchildren because Blake mentioned getting his mafia contacts involved. He suggested it was a reason he didn't go to police for six months after the killing.

Blake, 71, is accused of shooting Bakley, 44, in a car near his favorite neighborhood restaurant. Blake claims he found her shot after he returned to Vitello's restaurant to retrieve a gun he carried for protection and left in their booth. It was not the murder weapon.

The trial resumes next week.