The actor's trial finally gets under way, three and a half years after Bonny Lee Bakley's murder

By Ken Lee
Updated December 21, 2004 08:45 AM

Actor Robert Blake remained stone-faced and somber as his trial for the murder of his wife of six months, Bonny Lee Bakley, finally got under way in a packed Los Angeles courtroom Monday – more than three and a half years after the 44-year-old woman was found shot point-blank in the family car outside an Italian restaurant where the couple had just dined.

Blake, 71, had no family members present in the courtroom – not even his daughter Delinah, 38, adoptive mother to Bakley’s daughter Rose, 4, fathered by Blake as the result of an affair with Bakley that began with a one-night stand in August 1998.

Bakley’s 24-year-old daughter, Holly Gawron, sat quietly in attendance with her attorney.

Prosecutor Shellie Samuels took less than two hours to lay out the people’s case against the former Baretta star, whom she argued “formulated a plan to kill Bonny, (viewing) her as low-life trailer trash and wanted to physically remove her from (baby Rose’s) life.” Samuels claimed that when no one was willing to kill Bakley for him, “Blake did it himself.”

Meanwhile, Blake’s attorney, an aggressive Gerald Schwartzbach, declared there is no hard evidence fingering Blake as the gunman. “There is no DNA, no hairs, fibers or fingerprints, and no eyewitnesses connecting Mr. Blake to the gun,” he said. “He was not the shooter.”

Schwartzbach hacked away at the credibility of two stuntmen Samuels claimed had been approached by Blake to kill Bakley, saying that one of the men had used cocaine for more than 30 years, while the other abused methamphetamines “for many years.”

Blake is charged with one count of murder with the special circumstance of lying in wait and two counts of solicitation of murder. He has pleaded not guilty.