By Stephen M. Silverman
April 18, 2002 10:00 AM
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“Baretta” star Robert Blake, 68, and his bodyguard, Earle Caldwell, 46, were arrested in Southern California on Thursday, for investigation of the murder nearly a year ago of the actor’s wife, Bonny Lee Bakley, then 44, according to live Los Angeles TV news reports. Footage of Blake being taken into custody after being apprehended at his sister’s house in the San Fernando Valley, a suburb north of L.A., was shown on local TV stations. He was taken to LAPD headquarters downtown and is being held without bail. On May 4, 2001, Blake, whose career stretched back to his starring as a child in the “Our Gang” comedies, and his wife had been to dinner at an Italian restaurant, Vitello’s, near their home in Studio City (also in the Valley). At the time of the murder, Blake told authorities that he had left his wife alone in their parked car while he returned to the restaurant to retrieve a gun he claimed had fallen out of his clothing. Blake and his lawyer, Harlan Braun, suggested in interviews given to TV news shows immediately following the incident that Bakley, who had been painted as a grifter, may have been done away with by a former boyfriend or one of the many men they claimed she had bilked out of money in con schemes. She and Blake had been married for about five months before the slaying, after DNA tests proved that he fathered her 11-month-old daughter. Police Chief Bernard Parks told the AP that detectives will seek to have prosecutors charge Blake with one count of murder with special circumstances (which could make him eligible for the death penalty) and two counts of solicitation of murder. They are seeking a conspiracy to commit murder charge for the bodyguard. “I think that after thousands and thousands of hours of investigation by the LAPD they have concluded that Robert Blake and Earle Caldwell are responsible for the death of Bonny Bakley,” attorney Cary W. Goldstein, who represents the estate of Bakley, told CNN. “I believe that the real killer is out there,” Blake’s attorney, vouching for his client’s innocence, told reporters Thursday night.

For more about Robert Blake, read PEOPLE’s March 11 story on the case.