General News

Ex-P.I. Says Blake Wanted Bakley "Whacked"

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Feb 27, 2003 | 9:10am EST

During yesterday's testimony at actor Robert Blake's preliminary hearing, a retired police detective claimed the actor was intent on harming wife Bonnie Lee Bakley.

Reuters reports Blake showed little reaction as his onetime friend and retired homicide investigator William Welch took the stand and testified that Blake told him he'd had a one-night stand with Bakley and she'd gotten pregnant. Welch said Blake wanted Bakley kidnaped and forced to have an abortion, and if that didn't work, Welch testified, he said, "we're going to whack her," Reuters reports.

Welch said that he suggested Blake instead pay Bakley as much as $100,000 to go away, but the actor rejected that idea. Welch said he refused to go along with the plan and that Blake called him the next day saying he had changed his mind.

Also during Wednesday's hearing, prosecutors played an audiotape of a phone call in which Blake angrily scolded Bakley for getting pregnant.

"You lied to me. You double-crossed me. You double-dealt me, and that's who you are," Blake said.

The hearing to determine if Blake must stand trial for Bakley's May 2001 shooting death near a Studio City restaurant is expected to resume on Thursday. It began on the same day the first part of Blake's interview with Barbara Walters aired on 20/20.

Superior Court Judge Lloyd Nash is being asked to decide whether there is sufficient evidence to require the 69-year-old former star of the 1970s TV series Baretta to proceed to trial.

Blake is charged with murder, solicitation of murder and conspiracy to commit murder, along with the special circumstance allegation that Bakley was ambushed outside the restaurant where he and Bonny Lee Bakley had just eaten. Prosecutors have already announced they will not seek the death penalty if Blake is convicted.

The judge also will hear the evidence against Blake's bodyguard, Earle Caldwell, who is charged with a single count of conspiracy to commit murder. Court officials are estimating that the preliminary hearing may take as long as two weeks. Blake and Caldwell were arrested last April 18 following a lengthy investigation by the Los Angeles Police Department into Bakley's May 4, 2001, slaying.

Blake has remained jailed since that time despite defense bids--including one to the California Supreme Court--for his release on bail. Caldwell, 46, is free on $1 million bail posted by Blake shortly after his arrest.

In court papers filed last year, police said they believed Blake felt contempt for his wife and felt trapped in their brief marriage. Two stuntmen told police that Blake tried to hire them to kill his wife and suggested ways she could be murdered, according to court papers filed by the prosecution last year.

The hearing had originally been set to begin last December, but was postponed after Blake's first defense lawyer, Harland Braun, withdrew from the case because of his opposition to the actor's efforts to do an on-camera interview. Braun was replaced last November by attorneys Thomas Mesereau Jr. and Jennifer Keller. Keller left the case last month, telling reporters that she had been assured that Blake wouldn't be giving any media interviews without her advance knowledge and consent and that her advice wasn't taken on that issue.

Blake insists on being heard, whether to his benefit or detriment. Mesereau remains on the case, despite his opposition to Blake's jailhouse interview with Barbara Walters for ABC's 20/20 show. The hearing is expected to be televised live on Court TV.

The judge has said he would reconsider Blake's request to be freed on $1 million bail after the preliminary hearing concludes.

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