Robert Blake: In Cold Blood actor cleared of wife's murder dies at 89

The hell-raising actor, who played a mass killer in an adaptation of the Truman Capote novel, is believed to have died of heart disease

Actor Robert Blake was tried for murdering his wife, but was acquitted in 2005. AP Photo
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Actor Robert Blake, who played a mass killer in the film adaptation of Truman Capote's In Cold Blood and was acquitted of killing his own wife, has died in Los Angeles, US media reported Thursday. He was 89.

Showbiz publication Deadline reported Blake had died of heart disease and said his niece Noreen Austin had confirmed the news.

Blake, who found fame as a US TV detective in the 1970s series Baretta, made a name for himself as a hell-raising actor who got into fist fights with colleagues.

But his career, which began when he was a child, was overshadowed by the murder of his wife, a crime for which he was tried and acquitted.

Bonny Lee Bakley was in a relationship with Christian Brando, the son of Marlon Brando, when she met Blake at a Los Angeles nightclub in 1999.

Paternity tests on the child she bore several months later revealed that Blake, not Brando, was the father, and the couple were married.t

In 2001, Bakley was found dead from a gunshot in a car outside a restaurant where she and Blake had just dined.

At his trial, Blake said his wife was shot when he returned to the restaurant to pick up a gun he had accidentally left behind.

The actor claimed he returned to the car to find his wife bleeding profusely from a gunshot wound to her head and shoulder.

Possible perpetrators, Blake's lawyer told jurors, included Bakley's numerous prior husbands, the hundreds of men she swindled, as well as Christian Brando.

The jury heard evidence that Blake had tried to hire stuntmen to kill his wife, but acquitted him in early 2005.

Later that year, a civil jury found him liable for Bakley's death and ordered him to pay $30 million to her family.

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Updated: March 10, 2023, 6:23 AM