After three and a half years, the case of the actor's murdered wife opens in Los Angeles

By Stephen M. Silverman
Updated December 20, 2004 08:00 AM

The Robert Blake trial finally begins in a Los Angeles courtroom on Monday, nearly three and a half years after the wife of the Baretta star was murdered in the family car near a San Fernando Valley restaurant where the couple had dinner.

A seven-man, five-woman jury picked earlier this month will hear opening arguments, which are expected to include the prosecutors’ contention that Blake, 71, killed 44-year-old Bonny Lee Bakley out of hatred, while his defense will aim to show that Bakley had many enemies – and that Blake is innocent.

At the time of the murder, which occurred May 4, 2001, Blake told police he had gone back to the restaurant to retrieve a gun he had left inside and when he returned he found Bakley dead.

Prosecutors say Bakley coerced Blake into marriage a few months earlier, following the birth of their daughter, and Blake hated Bakley and feared the sort of mother she would be. According to the court papers, Blake considered Bakley “a bitch” and “scum of the earth” whom he wanted “out of his life,” Reuters reports.

Among key prosecution witnesses are two stuntmen who claim that Blake tried to get them to kill Bakley, reports Reuters. The defense is expected to attack their credibility.