POLICE warn media that rumors may taint murder probe

Tuesday, May 15th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ As reports surfaced that a gun was found yards away from where the wife of actor Robert Blake was shot to death, police asked journalists to refrain from publishing rumors about the murder investigation.

``The media may be unknowingly tainting witnesses or damaging the ability of police to gather firsthand information that is critical to the investigation,'' police Cmdr. Garrett Zimmon told reporters Monday evening.

Earlier in the day, police declined to comment on a report on ABC News' ``Good Morning America'' that the murder weapon was found in a trash bin near the murder site. The report cited an unidentified source.

The Los Angeles Times reported in Tuesday's editions that a truck driver asked by police to haul evidence away May 5 _ the day after Blake's wife, Bonny Lee Bakley, was killed _ was told by officers they found a gun in a trash bin.

John Philip Brice said he moved the bin from the murder site to a dump site, and watched as detectives removed items from the bin.

``They said the gun had just been freshly oiled and there was a lot of dust stuck to it,'' Brice told the Times. ``They didn't know if they would be able to get the prints off.''

Police refused to comment Monday on Brice's statements.

Blake's lawyer, Harland Braun, said he had expected a weapon to be found ``because that is typical of a hit.''

``A hit man always discards a gun,'' he told The Associated Press on Monday.

Meanwhile, criminal defense lawyer Barry Levin has joined Blake's legal team. Levin and Braun worked together defending the first officers to face criminal charges in the city's Rampart police corruption scandal.

Zimmon's statement came shortly after Braun released tape recordings Blake's wife made of herself discussing whether to claim that Blake or Christian Brando was the father of her newborn daughter.

Brando is the son of actor Marlon Brando.

In a taped telephone conversation with a man identified only as Ray, he advised her: ``Blake ain't going to let you hustle him. Blake's too slick.'' She responded, ``You think Blake is like a genius?''

The man replied, ``I think he's hip. You ain't going to get a dime out of him. ... He's not a dummy. I think he's going to use you more than you use him.''

``What would he use me for?'' asked Bakley.

``Just sex,'' said the man.

``For sex he could go get a hooker,'' Bakley replied.

Blake married Bakley four months ago after paternity tests determined he was the father of a now 11-month-old girl. The 45-year-old Bakley was shot to death May 4 near the Studio City restaurant where the couple had just dined.