Actor Blake's Wife Fatally Shot

ByABC News

May 7, 2001 -- Actor Robert Blake, who portrayed a detective in the 1970s TV drama Baretta, has hired an investigator to solve the real-life murder of his wife, who was shot and killed Friday night.

Bonny Lee Bakley, 44, was shot in the head in the couple's car outside an Italian restaurant in Studio City, Calif. Her husband had returned to the restaurant to retrieve his gun, and when he came back he found her slumped in the front passenger seat. She later died at a local hospital.

Blake was still in a hospital on Sunday after suffering from high blood pressure. His lawyer, Harland W. Braun, said Blake's blood pressure shot up as he waited for police to finish searching his home.

Detectives questioned Blake, 67, about the shooting, but Los Angeles Police Department spokesman Guillermo Campos said the actor was not considered a suspect. An autopsy has been conducted, but no details were released.

As the spouse and the last person to be seen with the victim, Blake has been very cooperative, said Braun, adding, "Obviously, a murder case remains opened until it is solved. [Blake has] already given them five hours of interviews and they have taken routine tests from his clothing and his hands, which all came back negative."

Braun said the actor's own hired investigator was searching for further clues. "Our investigators are now searching the house after the LAPD finished," Braun said. "With our assistance, there may be stuff in her property that could provide clues. … The police didn't really have a chance to understand her background, so here may be a clue that we can find that they didn't," Braun told Reuters.

The lawyer said Blake's wife believed someone was stalking her and had asked Blake to carry a gun. The pistol, for which the actor had a concealed weapon permit, was taken as evidence, the Los Angeles Times reports.

"The problem is that she had sort of a checkered background," said Braun, noting Bakely had been involved in "lonely hearts con schemes," which included selling nude photos of herself to lonely men.

"She liked to live on the edge, that's for sure," her mother, Marjorie Carlyon of Tennessee, told the Times on Sunday. "I always worried about her."

Blake married Bakley last November after DNA tests showed he was the father of Bakley's daughter, Rose. The child was originally named Christian Shannon Brando because Bakley initially thought the child was the daughter of Marlon Brando's son, Christian. Bakley left Brando for Blake after meeting him at a party, her sister told the Times Sunday.

Braun said Rose, born June 2, was staying with relatives. Bakley has three other children, including a 7-year-old daughter named Jeri Lee Lewis. Her sister, Margerry Bakley, claims Bonny once moved to Tennessee because of her obsession with singer Jerry Lee Lewis, who lives there.

After Blake found his wife shot on Friday night, he ran to the nearby house of his friend, Sean Stanek, begging him to call 911, according to Braun. Bakley and the actor had a tumultuous relationship, her sister claims, and she lived in a separate house on the back of Blake's Studio City property.

Blake, born Mickey Gubitosi in Nutley, N.J., played detective Tony Baretta from 1975 to 1978. He began his career as a child actor in the Our Gang series and has appeared in 127 films, including David Lynch's Lost Highway.

Reuters contributed to this story.

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