Did Robert Blake murder his wife, Bonnie Lee Bakley?
The death of Bonnie Lee Bakley has plagued Hollywood for years. Killed while waiting in the car for her husband, her killer has never been found in the court of the law, and her murder goes unsolved according to police. But that doesn’t mean no one’s found her killer.
Naturally, Robert Blake, her husband, was tried for her murder, but was not found guilty. But when a civil suit was filed by Bakley’s family, he was found liable for her death. So, is Blake responsible for his wife’s death? It depends on who you ask.
Civil vs. Criminal court
The first question to ask is: how was he found guilty in civil court but found not guilty in criminal court? It simply comes down to actual guilt. Civil court only requires plenty of evidence to prove someone guilty of a crime. In criminal court, the person has to be guilty without a doubt.
Basically, it comes down to if there’s any chance the person didn’t commit the murder, whether it be through another suspect, a flawless alibi, or insanity, they cannot be found guilty in criminal court. But as long as the evidence points to it most likely being the suspect, they‘re found guilty in civil court. Hence how Blake was found guilty in civil court but not in criminal court.
What made him a suspect?
But if Bakley was waiting for Blake, how could he have killed her? The reason Bakley was waiting for Blake was that the two had gone to dinner at an Italian restaurant and Blake left his gun at the restaurant. So, it makes plausible sense that he could’ve killed Bakley.
Though it was later discovered that Blake’s gun did not fire the shots that killed Bakley, he wasn’t knocked off the suspect list just yet. There was the theory that because of Bakley’s history of being obsessed with celebrities, Blake was uncomfortable and wanted her dead, so he hired a hitman to take her out.
Lack of criminal guilt
Blake continued to maintain innocence through the entire trial, and pleaded not guilty to charges of murder and soliciting a former stuntman to kill Bakley. The court agreed with him finding him not guilty of all charges in 2005.
After his trial, his defense was quick to attack the prosecution for the theory about hiring a hitman to take out Bakley. But District Attorney Stephen Cooley called Blake a “miserable human being” and bashed everyone involved in letting him get away not guilty.
Bakley’s children getting due diligence
Bakley’s three adult children were devastated by the ruling, feeling that their mother’s killer was let free. So, they filed a civil suit against Blake in an attempt to get some sort of justice for Bakley. During that trial, the attorney for Bakley’s family called up the girlfriend of Earle Caldwell, who was believed to have helped Blake with the murder.
She was asked if she believed that Caldwell and Blake murdered Bakley. After pausing for what felt like a decade with tears in her eyes, she admitted that she did believe Blake and Caldwell were involved in the murder. Referred to as a Perry Mason moment, this sealed Blake’s fate in the case.
On November 18th, 2005, Blake was found liable for the wrongful death of Bakley, and had to pay $30 million in reparations to Bakley’s family. Less than four months later, Blake filed for bankruptcy thanks to the case.
After the trials and his bankruptcy, Blake stepped out of the spotlight and entered a retirement from acting. In various interviews since the case, he’s made it clear that he still maintains innocence, even if no one believes him. He hasn’t acted since 1997, and while he wants one last film role before he dies, it doesn’t look like it’s coming.
In 2016, Blake revealed he had found love again, and was with another woman. In 2017, a marriage license application revealed the mystery woman was Pamela Hudak, a lifelong friend of Blake’s who testified on his behalf during the trials. But it didn’t last long, as the two filed for divorce in 2018.
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