LOS ANGELES – A detective assigned to collect Robert Blake's (search) clothes the morning after the actor's wife was shot to death testified Wednesday that he left the evidence in an uncovered box for two days in the trunk of his police car before it was turned in for testing.
Detective James Gollaz was among a series of civilian and police witnesses called by prosecutors in Blake's murder trial to describe events on or around the night of May 4, 2001, when Bonny Lee Bakley (search) was killed in the actor's car near Vitello's restaurant.
Defense attorney M. Gerald Schwartzbach (search) attacked Gollaz's handling of the evidence, suggesting his methods opened it to contamination and would make any tests for gunshot residue unreliable.
The prosecution has not presented any evidence of gunshot residue. The issue was complicated from the outset because the night of the killing, Blake was carrying a gun different from the one that killed Bakley, and which could be responsible for traces of gunshot residue.
Blake claims that after dinner he and his wife went to his car on a nearby street and he left her there to return to the restaurant to retrieve his gun, which he had forgotten. He claims he found Bakley bleeding when he got back to the car.
Gollaz testified that he was sent to Blake's home the next morning to get the clothing and to talk to Blake if possible. He said he believed police had a search warrant but never saw it. It was unclear if police had a warrant at that time or obtained it later.
The detective also said he never asked Blake whether the jeans, T-shirt, socks and boots that the actor took off and handed over were the same clothing he had on the previous night.
"I don't specifically remember asking him if it was the same clothing. I hoped and assumed it was the same clothing," Gollaz said.
The defense elicited testimony showing there was some concern later that Gollaz kept guns in the trunk where he had kept the clothing.
Gollaz said that a month after the shooting, the chief investigator instructed him to put a clean shirt in a box in the trunk of the same car and ride around with it for a few days to see if would collect gunshot residue. The court did not permit him to reveal the result of that test.
The prosecution also called more staff from Vitello's, where Blake was a customer for many years.
No witnesses have said they saw Blake retrieving his gun from the restaurant, but some have described him yelling for help on the street near his car and rushing to Vitello's for assistance.
Waitress Robyn Robichaux said that when she served Blake and his wife she saw no animosity and Blake seemed normal. But she said there was a great change when he returned alone.
"His physical appearance had changed dramatically and I thought he was having a heart attack. I'd say he had aged 50 years in 10 minutes," she said.
The prosecution also called three patrol officers who had contact with Blake the night of the killing.
Officer Samer Issa said he encountered a very agitated Blake and tried to calm him. Earlier witnesses had suggested Blake's distress didn't seem real.
"He'd been vomiting, he was very emotional," he said. "He said his wife was in the illegal porn business and she asked him to bring the gun. They had shot at her in Arkansas and he brought it for her protection."
Issa said Blake told him that he'd gone back into the restaurant to get the gun and came back to find his wife bleeding from the mouth.
"He said he blamed himself and asked what had happened to his wife and how she was," the officer said.
Blake and Bakley wed months before she was killed, and after DNA tests showed he was the father of her baby.
The defense is expected to focus on Bakley's background in arguing that someone else killed her. She has been depicted in pretrial documents as a con artist who took money from men with promises of sex.