When the news broke in May 2001 that the wife of a Hollywood actor had been shot to death in a car parked on a Los Angeles side street, it felt like O.J. all over again. It was the ultimate true Hollywood crime, this time starring actor Robert Blake as the prime suspect.
Blake's wife, Bonny Lee Bakley, was the victim. Their baby daughter, Rose, was the innocent child left motherless. From the beginning, the media devoured the Blake case — dissecting his wife's shadowy past and her quest to marry a celebrity, and stirring up comparisons between the tough guys Blake portrayed on screen and the killer police say he became.
Since Blake's arrest in April 2002, he has been denied bail and kept in the same jail cell that O.J. Simpson once occupied at the Los Angeles County Jail. In an exclusive interview airing on a special edition of 20/20 tonight at 10 p.m. ET on ABC, Blake talks with Barbara Walters about the case, his life in jail, and his concern for his 2 ½-year-old daughter Rosie.
Blake described the day when police came to his home to arrest him. "Oh, they had machine guns, they had stuff all over. It was like the worst Baretta we ever shot in my life," he said, referring to his 1970s crime drama.
This week the prosecution has been displaying its case against Blake at a preliminary hearing — putting on the stand an ex-detective and a former stuntman, who testified that Blake used words like "whack" and "pop" when they say he talked to them about killing Bonny.
He told Walters he wasn't surprised that the police arrested him, but he feels confident he will be exonerated. "I'm not gonna be found guilty," Blake said. "Why? It's real simple: 'Cause God has never, ever deserted me. Can't say I haven't deserted him from time to time."
The 69-year-old Blake, who would face life in prison if he is found guilty of the crime, said he is not concerned about the possibility of conviction. He said, "What do I care?," adding, "How do you kill a dead man? They [the police] took away my entire past. They took away my entire future. What's left for them to take?"
Blake has maintained his innocence, and told Walters, "of course I'm innocent." He also speculated about who he believes is responsible for Bakley's murder.
"In my heart I believe that some man, 10, 15, maybe 20 years ago, because she used to get married to them … I think she destroyed a lot of lives. And I think one life that she destroyed saw her on television," he said.
Blake said he believes Bakley's killer followed him and his wife to Vitello's, the Los Angeles restaurant where the couple had eaten just before Bakley was killed.
"Bonny never went any place by herself … I drove her to the post office, I drove her to the back doctor, I took her out to dinner … I think it was the first time in her life that she was scared that her past was sneaking around."
Blake said he met Bakley at a jazz club. "She told me, I'm either going to be a movie star, or I'm going to marry a movie star,' " he said. "And what is the down side? I'm an old man. I ain't got no life. What am I doing … I'm hanging around jazz clubs, sleeping with women I don't even know their name … Everybody thought I was crazy. I don't care … We had plans … we were going to kind of get to know each other and go from there. What did I have to lose? You tell me."