Homes of Robert Blake, bodyguard searched in police probe into death of actor's wife

Saturday, April 20th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Police seized evidence for a possible murder case against actor Robert Blake, while prosecutors reviewed thousands of documents to determine whether charges will be brought against him in the death of his wife.

Investigators searched the homes of Blake and his bodyguard Friday, hauling away guns and other potential evidence in last year's slaying of Bonny Lee Bakley.

Blake, star of the 1970s television detective show ``Baretta,'' was arrested Thursday along with bodyguard Earle Caldwell. Both were booked in connection with Bakley's murder outside a restaurant last May.

Police Capt. Jim Tatreau of the robbery-homicide unit said Blake, 68, shot and killed Bakley because he felt trapped in his marriage and had ``contempt'' for her. The actor was being held without bail.

Caldwell, 46, was being held on $1 million bail for investigation of conspiracy to commit murder.

``Earle was offered a chance to go home if he cooperated, but he had nothing to offer,'' said Blake's attorney, Harland Braun.

Tatreau said no offer was made to Caldwell.

Police searched the home where Blake moved after his wife was shot to death. In Burbank, detectives hauled boxes, a shotgun and two gun cases out of the bodyguard's second-floor apartment.

Police Cmdr. Gary Brennan said a third location was searched, but he refused to identify it.

Meanwhile, prosecutors have been working to determine whether there is enough evidence to file a formal complaint.

If prosecutors approve a complaint, Blake and Caldwell would be arraigned Monday in a Van Nuys courthouse a few miles from the restaurant where Blake and his wife dined May 4, the night she was killed.

Police say Blake shot his wife in the head after they left the restaurant. She was found in their car about a block from Vitello's, a neighborhood dining spot with a special dish on its menu named for Blake.

Blake married Bakley after she gave birth to a child she initially said was fathered either by Blake or actor Marlon Brando's son, Christian Brando. DNA tests showed Blake was the father.

Soon after the killing, Braun sought to show there could be many suspects other than Blake. He noted that Bakley ran a mail-order business in which she conned lonely men out of money, promising sex and pornographic pictures.