April 18, 2002 -- Actor Robert Blake was arrested by Los Angeles police today, nearly a year after his wife was shot to death in the couple's car.
The actor was arrested at his sister's home in Hidden Hills at about 6 p.m. PT.
"We are confirming that we have arrested Robert Blake in connection with the murder of his wife," police spokesman Officer Don Cox said. He said that Earle Caldwell, Blake's chauffeur and bodyguard, was also taken into custody.
Blake was taken to Parker Center police headquarters. His hands cuffed behind his back and wearing a white jacket and a green cap, he was escorted out of a white unmarked squad car and into the building, where he was booked and had his fingerprints and mugshot taken.
Bonny Lee Bakley, 44, was shot to death May 4 last year as she sat in Blake's car after they ate dinner at the restaurant Vitello's. Blake, 68, told police they walked to the car together but he had to return to the restaurant to retrieve a gun he had left behind. When he returned, Bakley was dead, he said.
Police arrived outside Blake's sister's home hours before they arrested him. For nearly a year, police seemed stymied as no witnesses stepped forward and a lack of evidence stalled the case.
Police insisted the investigation was not dead, and it apparently bore fruit today.
Sandi Gibbons, spokeswoman for the Los Angeles district attorney, said prosecutors will review the case submitted by police, and on Monday will announce whether they intend to file charges. Arraignment would be that day in Van Nuys Superior Court, she said.
Fingers Point at Blake
Blake denied involvement in Bakley's slaying, but Los Angeles police repeatedly said they had not ruled out the former Baretta star or anyone as a suspect.
Bakley's family — particularly her mother, sister, and grown daughter — have said they believe he was involved in the slaying, and cited alleged abuse and threats made by Blake.
Ten days after the killing, police recovered what they believed was the weapon used when they found a gun in a trash bin a block-and-half away from the crime scene.
The gun, a Walther pistol described as a collector's item, still had one bullet, which matched the two bullets used to kill Bakley. A source close to the investigation told ABCNEWS at the time that police found a box of ammunition of the same brand in Blake's house. Three bullets were missing from the box, the source said.
Blake's defenders pointed out he is avid gun collector, and the brand of ammunition, Remington Peters, is a popular brand.
Bakley's autopsy report has been sealed because detectives believed the investigation would be compromised.
The Victim's Alleged Past
Harland Braun, Blake's attorney, has painted an unsympathetic picture of Bakley since the beginning of the investigation, portraying her as a lifelong grifter who was obsessed with being a celebrity's wife.
Bakley's shady past, he said, ultimately led to her death. He released tapes of Bakley's phone conversations made before her marriage to Blake, where she seemed torn between pursuing Blake or Marlon Brando's son Christian. He has also submitted boxes of tapes, letters, photos and other documents to police to suggest that Bakley defrauded several people, giving them a motive for killing her.
Blake remained somewhat reclusive since the slaying. Representatives at Vitello's restaurant said they had rarely seen him there since the slaying. Noting that they were busy serving customers, a Vitello's employee said tonight they had no comment on Blake's arrest at this time.
Blake has been raising Rose, the baby daughter he had with Bakley, occasionally leaving his home in the Studio City and according to his attorney, and receiving letters of support.