In Cold Blood actor Robert Blake, acquitted of wife’s murder, dead at 89

Robert Blake.

Photo: Mike FANOUS/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

  • Actor Robert Blake, best known for his role as a mass killer in In Cold Blood has died of heart disease at the age of 89.
  • The actor was tried and acquitted of killing his wife, Bonny Lee Bakley, who he found with a gunshot wound to the head after the couple went out to dinner one night.
  • Blake’s lawyer argued Bakley’s seven prior husbands or the hundreds of men she swindled might’ve been the killer. Included was her lover, Christian Brando, son of Marlon Brando, .

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 real-life wife, has died in Los Angeles, US media reported Thursday. He was 89. 

The showbiz outlet 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.

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 seven prior husbands, the hundreds of men she swindled, and 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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