LOS ANGELES – Actor Robert Blake said from jail Thursday that he is convinced he will be acquitted in the shooting death of his wife and will one day return to his young daughter.
Asked why he was certain, Blake said: "Because I didn't do it."
The star of the 1970s TV show Baretta talked about his life in show business, his abusive childhood, his relationship with wife Bonny Lee Bakley and her family, and his determination to be acquitted and "walk into the sunset" with his 2-year-old daughter Rose.
In his first lengthy interview with a print journalist since his arrest, Blake, 68, spoke by telephone from behind glass at the Men's Central Jail. He said he decided to speak out in spite of advice that he remain silent. "I'm sick of keeping my mouth shut," he said.
His 44-year-old wife was shot the night of May 4, 2001, in her husband's car near Vitello's, a Studio City restaurant. Prosecutors allege Blake contemplated killing her more than a year, when he found out she was pregnant with his child. After the girl was born, he allegedly became obsessed with protecting the child from Bakley, offering two stuntmen up to $100,000 to "bump her off" before killing her himself.
Blake claims his wife was shot when he returned to the restaurant to retrieve a handgun he had inadvertently left behind. He said Thursday he had carried the gun for protection for years.
That night, he said, the couple had a pleasant dinner. "There was no arguing," he said, and he thought their marriage might work out.
"There was no downside to it," he said. "What's the worst thing that could happen. The marriage might not work out and we would divorce and I would get Rosie. Or we would become friends, she would enjoy Hollywood and I would raise Rosie."
He said he held no hostility toward his wife "because I didn't know her. ... I was getting to know her." He credited Bakley with reviving his spirit and acknowledged that their child became the focus of his life. "I had something to live for, to go back to work for, to lose weight for," he said.
Blake said that Bakley came into his life at a time when he was lonely. "Here I was 67 or 68 years old. My life was on hold. My career is settled out. I've been alone for a long time," he said.
"My life had always been an adventure. I've been the bull rider, not the guy sitting in the stands selling popcorn."
He said at night he would go to jazz clubs and occasionally he would meet women. "And maybe that night I was too lonely to go home ... and then I'd meet somebody and we'd have sex. Bonny was there that night, so Bonny and I went out to the car and had sex," he said.
Later, he said, she would call him when she was in town and they would meet. He said she told him she was using birth control.
"Bonny talked all the time. All you had to do was say hello and she told stories. She said her brother was a hit man," he said.
He said he didn't know how much to believe: "Sometimes the less people live the more they invent."
Blake has been held without bail since his April 18 arrest. His bodyguard, Earle Caldwell, is charged with conspiracy to murder and is free on $1 million bail posted by Blake.
Blake married Bakley after she gave birth to his daughter in June 2000. Bakley originally suggested the father was Marlon Brando's son, Christian, but DNA tests pointed to Blake.
The actor's attorney has argued that many people had a motive to kill Bakley. Stacks of letters, pornographic pictures and detailed records showed that Bakley, using aliases, ran a business soliciting money from lonely men who answered her ads in publications.