Doctor testifies that Robert Blake's cries for help didn't seem distressed


Monday, December 20th 2004, 9:54 am
By: News On 6


LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Robert Blake laughed and smiled as he dined with his wife the night she was shot, the restaurant's owner testified at the actor's murder trial.

Bonny Lee Bakley was shot May 4, 2001, after dining at Vitello's restaurant in Blake's Studio City neighborhood.

Blake maintains he left Bakley in the car to go back into Vitello's to retrieve a handgun he carried for protection and returned to find her bleeding.

Vitello's co-owner Joe Restivo said Wednesday he did not see Blake come back to get a gun, but noted he was busy with takeout orders. Eventually he saw Blake return, in distress and looking for a doctor.

``He was out of it. He was in hysterics. He was saying, 'We need help,' or 'Somebody hurt my lady,''' he said.

Blake, 71, is charged with murder, lying in wait and soliciting two stuntmen to murder Bakley, 44. If convicted he could spend the rest of his life in prison. The trial recessed until Jan. 4.

A doctor testified he heard the former ``Baretta'' star calling out that his wife was bleeding and needed help, but said did not offer assistance because he thought the Blake's cries were insincere.

Dr. James Michael McCoy, a hospital administrator, said he and a friend were walking nearby when they heard a man shouting for help and banging on the door of a home. McCoy did not know that the man was the famous actor.

``I heard a man's voice calling, 'Help, my wife is bleeding!''' McCoy said. ``The first impression I had is it was not a call for help. I thought maybe this was a home-invasion robbery.''

The doctor said he steered his woman friend across the street to take shelter under a large tree because ``personal safety was a concern. Something didn't seem right.''

Deputy District Attorney Shellie Samuels asked McCoy if his response was due to the man's demeanor.

``It didn't have an element of distress,'' McCoy said. ``It seemed more cajoling. I felt there was something wrong going on and it would be better to be safe rather than to be exposed.''

McCoy said that within minutes he saw the man who had been shouting go into Vitello's and then saw people run out of the restaurant and down the street toward a car.

On cross-examination by defense lawyer M. Gerald Schwartzbach, McCoy said that even then he did not offer to help. He said he was told that a nurse was present and later was told that the man had a gun.

Asked why he did not think Blake's cries were urgent, the witness said, ``Intonation and context create the sense of urgency.''

``Isn't it your view that people react in all kinds of ways to emergencies?'' asked Schwartzbach.

``Yes, that's correct,'' McCoy said.

The medical examiner, Dr. Jeffrey Gutstadt, said his investigation of Bakley's wounds indicated the shooter was more than 1 1/2 feet away, and that both wounds were fatal.

``It would not be an instantaneous death,'' Gutstadt said, suggesting it would have taken three to 15 minutes for Bakley to die but there was little paramedics could do.

``It is unlikely that in this case they would have been able to save her life,'' Gutstadt said.