Blake Hearing Focuses on Co-Defendant

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After a week of testimony focusing on whether Robert Blake killed his wife, attention at his preliminary hearing has turned to the actor's co-defendant, whose shopping list has been portrayed by prosecutors as circumstantial evidence of murder.

Handyman Earl Caldwell's attorney, Arna Zlotnick, suggested Wednesday it was an innocent listing of items often used by a handyman — shovels, a sledgehammer, lye, pool acid and duct tape.

But the notation, "Get blank gun ready," and a reference to "25 auto?" were not explained before the hearing was adjourned until Monday so one of the attorneys can fulfill a commitment elsewhere.

Zlotnick had police Detective Brian Tyndall unfold the original list, which he said was old, frayed and dirty. There was no date on the faded paper, which police said was found stuffed in a cup holder in Caldwell's vehicle.

It was found by detectives six weeks after Bonny Lee Bakley was shot to death outside Vitello's restaurant, a favorite Blake hangout that has a pasta dish on the menu named for the star of the old Baretta TV show.

Prosecutors are trying to show that Blake and Caldwell conspired on a plan to murder Bakley, with the handyman gathering supplies.

Prosecutors say Blake, 69, shot Bakley to death on May 4, 2001, in the couple's car after having dinner with her at Vitello's. Caldwell is accused of conspiracy.

At the preliminary hearing's conclusion, Superior Court Judge Lloyd Nash will determine whether there is sufficient evidence for the two to stand trial.

Prosecutors said Wednesday they hope to finish laying out their case against Blake and Caldwell by the middle of next week.

Zlotnick, in a cross-examination, at one point explored whether Caldwell went to Arkansas to plant illegal drugs on Bakley and have her probation revoked. Tyndall said a witness suggested that but said the trip was unsuccessful.

Blake married Bakley in October 2000 after the 44-year-old woman gave birth to his daughter, Rosie. Prosecution witnesses have testified that the actor felt Bakley was a bad influence who associated with disreputable people and might eventually lead his daughter into child pornography. A retired homicide detective and two retired stuntmen have testified that Blake tried to hire them to kill her.

Blake's lawyer, Thomas Mesereau Jr., hammered away at police conduct in the case, eliciting Tyndall's testimony Wednesday that police did not investigate Bakley's purported connections with drug dealers, bikers and racketeers while looking into her background.

The defense contends that police focused on the actor as the only suspect and did not pursue other leads.

Tyndall said Blake's former personal assistant, Cody Blackwell, told him about Bakley's associations as related to her by Blake but did not follow up on them.

"I was dealing in a murder investigation, not in association," Tyndall said.