Analysis: SWEATHSIRT SHROUDS STRANGE CASE OF ROBERT BLAKE
by Joe Shea
American Reporter Correspondent
HOLLYWOOD -- The murder of "Baretta" star Robert Blake's wife Bonny Lee = Bakley became infinitely more complicated Monday, when the media learned th= at police recovered a gun believed to be the murder weapon from a Dumpster = just a few yards from the site of the murder on Woodbridge Ave. in Studio C= ity, a block from Vitello's restaurant where the couple dined just before h= er death. The complication, simply stated, is that if Blake owned that gu= n, it may prove him a cold-blooded killer who methodically planned the assa= ssination of a troublesome wife. If not, it frees him forever of the guilt = for her death. And the answer lies neatly wrapped in a sweatshirt that the=
public has yet to see.
According to Blake, he left the Italian restaurant (where a menu item wa= s named after him) to go home with his wife in their car, parked on the str= eet about a block away. At the car, he left her sitting inside and returned= to recover a gun wrapped in a sweatshirt that he'd kept on the seat beside= him as he ate.
That gun was turned over to police at the scene, and there is no evide= nce it had been recently fired. That gun, in fact, is much less important t= han the sweatshirt.
Blake says he went back to the car and found his wife shot dead.
He went to a nearby home, coincidentally owned by a friend, and asked = him to call police. He was crying and moaning like a man in shock, and vom= ited as he spoke, his friend said. Initial reports also said he returned t= o the restaurant a second time, still in an apparent state of shock and gri= ef, as he awaited the police.
The problem is this: Did anyone but Blake see the gun in the sweatshirt= ? Or was the sweatshirt a tv prop that helped establish a flimsy alibi? An= d there's the rub. If a waiter or busboy picked up the sweatshirt from the= seat at the table and turned it over to the manager for housekeeping, that= person might well have noticed the hardness or the weight of the gun, and = even unwrapped it to see what he'd found.
If everyone noticed the sweatshirt, LAPD detectives may have a prima fac= ie case for premeditated murder.
That's because the sweatshirt would have= been used to establish an alibi, and leaving it there might demonstrate th= e kind of planning that in California will sometimes earn a killer a trip t= o Death Row.
Adding to the trail of evidence would be the fact that he returned to th= e restaurant a second time, where he may have reminded employees that he ha= d just come back to get his gun in the sweatshirt, instead of returning to = the car where his wife lay mortally wounded.
Blake had the gun when police interviewed him at the scene, so it was no= t the gun that was in the Dumpster. Could he have had two guns in the sweat= shirt, or kept the other, for instance, in his waistband, or pocket, or in = an ankle holster, or under his seat in the car?
Two more guns were found at Blake's home, and it's unclear how many he = owned in total. Police presumably would have searched him for a holster at = the scene, especially after recovering the licensed gun Blake had.
Police have another problem, at least according to Blake's well-regarde= d defense lawyer, Harland Braun: There were no powder burns on Blake's hand= ; police have not confirmed that.
But detectives did find gloves in the Dumpster, according to a truck dri= ver who hauled the bin away after police searched it -- but Braun is appare= ntly saying those gloves were stripped off the hands of a paramedic who wor= ked on Bakley. Some reports suggest the police found another pair of gloves= , too.
Lint might have stuck to the reportedly well-oiled barrel of the gun in= the Dumpster if it had been in a pocket or waistband, and those fragments = might be matched. Good clean forensic work also ought to be able to establi= sh if Blake wore any of the gloves, and that may be the reason Blake today = hired lawyer Barry Levin, the O.J. Simpson DNA expert, as a new member of h= is legal team.
The problem of the discovered gun is that it removes any possibility of= a defense based on temporary insanity or spur-of-the-moment rage that migh= t merit consideration as manslaughter -- eliminates it, that is, if the gun= is somehow traced to Blake. But if it cannot be traced to him, there is vi= rtually no other route to conviction should he ever become a named suspect.=
One more item: Readers of the Daily News might have noticed that the day= after Blake's wife died, a man was found shot to death in a car on Van Nuy= s Blvd. In fact, a lot of people are found shot to death in cars; one such = victim, a man, was left in a bright yellow Camaro at Highland and DeLongpre= in the heart of Hollywood on a Sunday afternoon just after the LA Marathon= .
In fact, two women have been shot to death in cars in Hollywood over = the past six months; only we Neighborhood Watch types seem to notice. Polic= e say both cases were incidents of domestic violence in which the victims k= new their killer; one was apprehended and the other fled to Mexico, police = believe. Another woman was found murdered on a Hollywood sidewalk, also by = her lover, police say. But the yellow Camaro has not yielded any clues.
Joe Shea is a former Hollywood private investigator who covered the earl= iest stages of the O.J. Simpson case for the New York Post and revea= led the contents of the obscured shouting on the infamous 911 tape, which h= e had gotten enhanced.