Imperial Valley Press
Robert Blake, actor acquitted in wife’s killing, dies at 89
LOS ANGELES – Robert Blake, the Emmy award-winning performer who went from acclaim for his acting to notoriety when he was tried and acquitted in the killing of his wife, died Thursday at age 89.
A statement released on behalf of his niece, Noreen Austin, said Blake died from heart disease, surrounded by family at home in Los Angeles.
Blake, star of the 1970s TV show, “Baretta,” had once hoped for a comeback, but he never recovered from the long ordeal which began with the shooting death of his wife, Bonny Lee Bakley, outside a Studio City restaurant on May 4, 2001. The story of their strange marriage, the child it produced and its violent end was a Hollywood tragedy played out in court.
Once hailed as among the finest actors of his generation, Blake became better known as the center of a real-life murder trial, a story more bizarre than any in which he acted. Many remembered him not as the rugged, dark-haired star of “Baretta,” but as a spectral, white-haired murder defendant. In a 2002 interview with The Associated Press while he was jailed awaiting trial, he bemoaned the change in his status with his fans nationwide: “It hurt because America is the only family I had.”
He was adamant that he had not killed his wife and a jury ultimately acquitted him. But a civil jury would find him liable for her death and order him to pay Bakley’s family $30 million, a judgment which sent him into bankruptcy. The daughter he and Bakley had together, Rose Lenore, was raised by other relatives and went for years without seeing Blake, until they spoke in 2019. She would tell People magazine that she called him “Robert,” not “Dad.”