Published January 13, 2015
A retired stuntman who claims Robert Blake tried to have his wife killed testified Tuesday that Blake wanted to be there when the slaying took place and wasn't worried about police questions because "I'm an actor."
Ronald Hambleton took the stand at a preliminary hearing on whether there is enough evidence to try Blake in the slaying of his wife, Bonny Lee Bakley, who was shot in a car after the couple dined at a restaurant in 2001.
The former Baretta star claims he found his wife shot after he returned to Vitello's restaurant to retrieve a gun he had accidentally left behind.
"When defendant Blake was talking about the various scenarios under which Ms. Bakley might get killed, did he say anything about whether he had to be present or not?" prosecutor Greg Dohi asked Hambleton.
"He never said anything about that he had to be present, but every scenario always included his presence," Hambleton said.
"When you talked about his presence, where would he have to be?" Dohi asked.
"Right there on the spot," Hambleton said.
"When the killing actually happened?" Dohi asked.
"That is correct," the witness said.
Hambleton is one of three witnesses at the hearing who have testified that the actor solicited the killing of Bakley, whom he had recently married after she had a daughter by him.
The prosecution focused on Hambleton's testimony about a scenario involving Vitello's, a longtime Blake neighborhood hangout where a pasta dish is named for the actor.
"In general it was either he was going to be in an automobile with Miss Bakley or he was going to be walking from his residence to the restaurant with Miss Bakley and somewhere en route or wherever he parked the vehicle, he felt that that would be an ideal place to take care of the situation," Hambleton said.
The witness said the first thing that came to mind when Blake proposed the scenarios was what Blake would be doing.
"I asked him specifically, 'What are your plans if somebody is going to be, if you will, mugging your wife and you have a gun permit, carrying a .38, what exactly is going to be your participation?'" Hambleton said.
"He didn't have too much to say about that and I said, 'Well, you know the cops will have you right there on the spot asking you questions.' And his response to that is, 'Don't worry about that, I'm an actor.'"
He said Blake viewed Bakley "as being scandalous in nature" and was worried that if she gained custody of their daughter, Rose, the girl would end up involved in child pornography.
Hambleton acknowledged he told police that at one point Blake declared: "If you won't do this, I'll handle it myself."
Hambleton has said he went along with Blake's discussions because he feared for his safety. The defense sought to show that Hambleton was not worried, pointing out that he first told police he knew nothing of Blake's involvement, but six months later alleged Blake solicited Bakley's murder.
Prosecutors also entered into evidence a list found at the home of Blake's handyman-bodyguard, Earle Caldwell, who is accused of conspiracy.
On the list are: "2 shovels, small sledge, crowbar, 25 auto, get blank gun ready, old rugs, duct tape, Draino, pool acid, lye, plant." The defense has said the items were for construction and pool cleaning.
Also Tuesday, a detective testified that Blake's personal assistant, Cody Blackwell, told him the actor used to rant about Bakley.
"He called her the scum of the earth, said she associated with bikers, drug dealers and trailer park tattoo people," the detective, Brian Tyndall, testified.
He testified that she described an incident when Blake diverted Bakley while the assistant took the baby. She then met Blake and drove him and the little girl to the home of the actor's adult daughter.
She told Tyndall that Blake "caressed the baby to his shoulder and said, 'Just you and me."'
Bakley later filed a complaint saying Blake kidnapped the child.
During cross-examination, Tyndall said Blackwell was later paid $10,000 by a tabloid for her story.