Contradictory reports were aired about the status of a gun - reportedly the murder weapon - that had been found in a dumpster near Blake's car. Some wrongly reported that it belonged to Blake, while others accurated stated that it could not been traced. The same was true with regard to tests done to determine if gun powder had been found on Blake's hands. It was, said most reports. But elsewhere sources were quoted who refuted the story. Ultimately, of course, if was found that only a few microscopic particles of iron, which could be traced to various sources, including Blake's own gun, were on his hands. Other stories have noted the absence of blood on Blake's clothing, something which most agree will help him prove his innocence, as it is nearly impossible for anyone to shoot another person at close range and not be "sprayed" with at least microscopic bits of blood.
Just as curious is a feature published in December of 2002 by the Los Angeles Times which cites court records in the case to the effect that the gun found in the dumpster near where Bakley was shot "had been splashed with oil, making it impossible for police to recover any fingerprints linking a suspect to the weapon." If Blake committed the murder as charged, it stands to reason that he was also the one who "splashed" oil all over the gun. But now it gets complicated. Is it possible that Blake went to the car, did the shooting, then proceed with a cover-up that included using a can of motor oil (or something similar) to douse the gun before trashing it? And all this in a neighborhood where he was well-known? The sound of gunfire in a quiet, upscale neighborhood early on a Friday night, after all, would normally be expected to attract attention, regardless of whether or not it did in this case. (1)
During the eleven months following the murder, the most reliable source of accusations was Margerry Bakley (at left), sister of the slain woman. The younger Bakley, an articulate and often sympathetic figure, wove all sorts of tales about missing cassettes, a sister living in fear for her life, and threats she allegedly received from Blake. Old Blake friend John Solari, who often defended the actor in interviews and referred to the whole Bakley family as "Jerry Springer rejects," is shown in photo, above right
Despite Margerry's reasonable demeanor, much of what she had to say was less than credible. For one thing, if Bonny Bakley had been terrified of Blake, as her sister so often claimed, it makes little sense that she would remain in the house on Blake's property openly flaunting her violation of the no-business agreement she signed before her marriage. Conspiracies stories about missing cassette tapes that would "prove" Blake's guilt seem even more illogical for the same reason. If Bakley had made tapes to be used as evidence in case of her demise, surely she would have given copies to her attorney or some other reliable person. She may have been a first-class dirtbag, but she wasn't stupid.
Margerry's credibility was further eroded when it was revealed that she had tried to profit from her sister's death - despite her objections over the 'dirtying' of Bonny in the media - by selling pornographic photos of the deceased. In a news release announcing a lawsuit against Margerry for backing out of a documentary deal, it was also revealed that hours of film footage had been made, including a sequence in which Bonny, at her mother's request, had obtained a gun which the mother intended to use to shoot Margerry. (2)
And the criminal case was not the only news on the Blake front. On the 29th of April, 2002, a civil suit was filed against Robert Blake by Bakley's family. The wrongful death suit attracted relatively little attention at first, but became something of a sideshow in January of 2003 when an attorney representing the Bakleys, Eric Dubin, prodded Blake with a series of provocative and ridiculous questions during a taped deposition and then released video to television stations in what appeared to be a play for publicity. Dubin is shown at right with Fox New Channel's Greta Van Sustern and Margerry Bakley.
Then came the release of a security camera videotape that showed Bonny Bakley's brother, Joey, boasting to his San Diego landlady about his multiple aliases, fraudulent credit cards, and the his television appearances, one of which later landed him in jail on an outstanding arrest warrant. In the video, which was posted on the Court TV web page, the Bakley brother also bragged repeatedly about the lawsuit:
Landlady: ...I know you for Joe Bakley.
Joey Bakley: Well, you know me everything now... Joe Bakley, Michael Malizzi, William Babcock, all kinds of name. My sister, look at my sister, goddamn she got killed, shot in the head in L.A. And I got a fucking thirteen million dollar lawsuit going, wrongful death suit. The guy got thirteen million dollars and I'm going to take it from him. And they put him in jail - you didn't see me on TV?
Joey Bakley: Yeah, [channels] 39, 8, 10, 12, Extra!, Inside Edition, I'm going to get his thirteen million. Wrongful death suit. I got me a good Mexican boy. From Aculpulco. I brought him across the border, him and his brother. Well, my boyfriend, he's 33, he's got a visa, we just flew his boyfriend in from Aculpulco to [Tiajuana] and I drove him across the border. Twenty-one and I got both of them now. Yeah, why not get all you can while you can. And I still got the house in Mexico and I don't know what to do with it. Haven't been back there in a year.
Landlady: You live in Mexico?
Joey Bakley: No, I stay here because of my boyfriend. I take him across and I can't get him back. That's all we need is to get them fucked up. That's a good one. I know this one. $5,000 phone bill. Want to pay it? $5,000.
Landlady: All the time I know you as Joe.
Joey Bakley: Well, I'm known as a lot. Call the police. They know me. Call the police. They know me. I ain't scared. You believe that. They can't do shit to me. They can't do nothin' to me. Thank you I appreciate it. I need it. Thank you very much. (3)
The most ridiculous media event to date, however, was the "seance" conducted for ABC television and aired on 22 April. In that special, called "Contact: Talking to the Dead," a "medium" (psychic) by the name of George Anderson "interviewed" Bakley. "She does admit she contributes to ending her life, but she doesn't want to say she committed suicide, and it's very important you understand that," Anderson solemnly told the television camera. He also said that Bakley (or was it her spirit?) refused to name her killer. "They already know that," said Anderson, repeating what he "heard" from beyond the grave. "She says you don't have to go over that again and relive the agony. She says we have to take up where it has been left off." Margerry Bakley, amazed at Anderson's story, gushed, "It's Bonny, out and out, word for word." (4)
A similar fantasy made the rounds of the internet. This one had another psychic insisting that Blake, who is "not normally the murdering type," thought that Blake was somehow involved. "I can't say for sure whether he was the one who pulled the trigger, but I'm confident in saying that he wanted her dead," says the web site's seer. She also claims that Blake's trial will end with him getting capital punishment, something that cannot possibly happen as the prosecution has said it would not even seek the death penalty.
For the supermarket tabloids, however, the story was absolute gold. Over-blown and misleading headlines promised a Blake "confession," reported that the actor had sworn to commit suicide while in jail, and featured a "huge" gun collection which, as it turned out, consisted of little more than BB guns and old movie set fakes. There were endless variations on the theme of Blake's rage and Bonny's trickery, along exposes about her freakish sex life, the alleged would-be "hitmen," and almost anything else one can imagine - even advice to Blake supposedly offered by O.J. Simpson (don't watch television").
Fully two years after the shooting, the matter grew even more sensational. "Insider Reveals New Defense Theory: Brando's Son Murdered Blake's Wife!" screamed a headline on the 2 July 2003 National Enquirer. Now the tabloids had a bizarre killing in which two celebrities, not just one, could be described as "suspects." (5)
As has been widely reported, Bakley's other big name catch, Christian Brando (pictured at right), had allegedly asked one of Blake's accusers to "put a bullet through that bitch's (Bakley's) head." The revelation came from Diane Mattson, a woman hired in October of 2000 to act as an "adult babysitter" to Brando. According to Mattson, Brando was called at his Kalama, Washington home by ex-Hollywood stuntman Jerry Lee Petty in either late February or early March 2001. Petty, who committed suicide in his Hollywood Hills home on the 15th of March that year, is described in court documents as a "long-time friend and surrogate father" to Brando. Two other men were on the line with Petty via speaker phone - Ronald "Duffy" Hambleton and a "homeless man" who lived with Hambleton at his Lucerne Valley residence and supplied both Hambleton and Petty with drugs. Mattson, who was able to listen on Brando's speaker phone, says it was one of 40 or 50 conversations she overheard during the months she worked for Brando. She has said that she can identify the voice of the "Duffy" she heard on the phone that day as belonging to the same Ronald "Duffy" Hambleton who testified against Blake at the preliminary hearing in March of 2003. (6)
During that phone call, the subject of Bonny Lee Bakley came up, and Ms. Mattson says she heard Petty inform Brando, apparently for the first time, about the DNA tests that determined the child's paternity. Mattson informed Thomas Mesereau, Jr., Blake's attorney at the time, that Petty told Brando he had been "duped by Ms. Bakley, that the child was not his, that DNA testing had revealed Mr. Blake was the baby's father, and that Mr. Blake had possession of the child." (7)
Prior to that time, says a motion filed in Los Angeles Superior Court on 25 July 2003, Bakley had supplied Brando with money which he used for drugs and had tricked him into long phone conversations in which Brando could hear "his" baby crying.
Before and during this same time period, Ms. Bakley had placed telephone calls to Mr. Brando (also on speaker phone) in which she claimed to have the baby in Arkansas - simultaneously playing what was apparently a tape recording of a baby crying. Mr. Brando would then play a lullabye on his guitar over the telephone to soothe the crying "baby." According to Mr. Petty, the baby was actually in California with Mr. Blake at this time. (8)
Brando, Mattson has said, is a person with unpredictable violent tendencies who tends to throw temper tantrums unexpectedly. When he heard the remarks about Bakley and the baby, according to Mattson, Brando said to Hambleton that "somebody ought to put a bullet through that bitch's head." Both Mr. Petty and Hambleton appeared to agree and there was laughter on the other end of the line. Hambleton also made a remark about being honored to talk to "the son of the godfather." (9)
The petition describes Brando's outburst immediately after the call ended, as told by Adam Mattson, son of Diane Mattson:
Mr. Brando hung up the phone, and immediately flew into what Mr. Mattson describes as a full-blown rage - during the course of which Mr. Brando broke three windows, threw the phone, and flung tools in the living room. This was not the first such incident; according to Ms. Mattson, Mr. Brando has a "hair-trigger temper," is "very violent," and is "physically destructive." She has witnessed him sledge hammer walls, turn refrigerators over, and throw tool boxes across the room - both on and off drugs.(10)
The motion also contains some interesting background as to Bakley's relationship with Brando during the months after October of 2000 when Mattson acted as Brando's caretaker:
During this same time period, Ms. Mattson states, Ms. Bakley was sending cash, pornographic photos, and phone cards to Mr. Brando; the latter would then spend the cash on, or trade phone cards for, drugs. Mr. Brando regularly asked Ms. Mattson to count out the cash Ms. Bakley sent him; she recalls counting out approximately $1200 on one occasion around Thanksgiving of 2000. At a certain point, presumably after it became public knowledge that DNA testing had revealed the child's true parentage, these packages from Ms. Bakley stopped arriving - and Mr. Brando refused to take Ms. Bakley's calls. (11)
Brando also allegedly behaved strangely in the wake of the Bakley shooting. Says the court document, Brando once said to Mattson that Bakley had gotten "what she deserved," but then worried what would happen to the baby with her mother dead while, at the same time, asking what sort of mother a woman like Bakley would make, anyway. (12)
The petition continues:
In June of 2001, it was arranged that Mr. Brando would be interviewed in Seattle by detectives from the Los Angeles Police Department. It was also arranged that Mr. Brando would be represented by Seattle criminal defense attorney John Henry Brown, and that Ms. Mattson would take Mr. Brando to the interview. On the way to the interview, Mr. Brando and Ms. Mattson discussed the fact that the former would have to avoid drinking before the interview. As Ms. Mattson had been with him the night of Ms. Bakley's killing, Mr. Brando was convinced his alibi would protect him. Nevertheless, he seemed to Ms. Mattson to be very apprehensive.
Upon conclusion of the interview, Mr. Brando and Ms. Mattson immediately went across the street to a bar - where Mr. Brando had three double shots of whiskey in a row. Expressing relief that the interview was over and he would not have to "worry about it again," Mr. Brando remarked that Ms. Bakley was dead and gone, and appeared gratified that he had not gone to pieces during the interview and had been able to "pull it off" - despite the fact that "L.A. had sent their finest." (13)
Brando also is said to have left the state of Washington in December of 2001, fearing the Los Angeles police might further question him about the slaying, says the petition which sought to have the court take special testimony from Ms. Mattson and her son because they both feared for their lives. (14) Brando, the document asserts, had told Mattson to say nothing to anybody about him and on an earlier occasion had threatened her and her son in an attempt to force her to lie to a probation officer. (15)
In late December of 2003, yet another claim of solicitation was in the news. This time, the statement was made by a man identifying himself as "Kevin Hulk" who left his message on the answering machine of Blake then-attorney Thomas Mesereau, Jr. "I had agreed to kill Bonnie Lee Bakley. If I did kill her I would tell you that I killed her but someone else killed her anyway," the caller said. "I was gonna kill her because she had my address book, My address book is precious." He also insisted he had contacted the lead detective working on the Blake case but that there was no follow-up. The clearly-deranged caller also threatened to kill MTV's Carson Daly "because he has my two-way, and I actually saw a picture of him on MTV with my two-way." Said Scott Ross, a private investigator working with the defense, "Here's another clue that's being ignored. Here's somebody who says, 'I was solicited.' How come they're not out investigating to find out who did the solicitation?" (16)
The media frenzy about the Bakley murder extended, of course, to all-news cable TV, where almost from day one attorneys battled it out among themselves about pre-trial tactics, the struggle to get Blake released on bail, and the possibility of live trial coverage. But a few media events didn't go exactly as planned. The story took a humorous twist when talk host Larry King brought on his show former Bakley collaborator Christina Scheier who is said to be writing a book, accompanied by her publicity agent/co-author Larry Garrison. What should have turned out to be a most entertaining and revealing conversation became instead an outrageous sales pitch. Virtually every question was answered with a "read my book" response.
King: Have the police talked to you?
Scheier: Yes, they have.
King: Are they going to continue to talk to you...?
Garrison: This weekend on Saturday, they're flying out to her home to meet with her and talk about the new information that was just uncovered.
King: Which was?
Garrison: We have to save that.
. . .
King: Did you know Robert Blake?
Scheier: Not personally.
King: Never met him? Never talked to him on the phone?
Scheier: Well, that will ... I better not talk about it.
. . .
King: Do you believe Robert Blake had her killed or killed her?
Scheier: People had motives but, you know - people had motives, but it might jeopardize the trial.
King: You can have a belief. If you're going to be a witness for the prosecution, you could certainly have a belief. But you don't want to state whether...
Scheier: No, I don't want to risk myself right now. (17)
The interview was mercifully terminated after Garrison confessed, "there's other information that will be coming out that could not only jeopardize the trial, but we're holding back also, to be honest with you, [because of] my movie and my book."
(1) See Jean Guccione and Andrew Blankstein, "Blake Tip Needed Endless Legwork," Los Angeles Times (23 December 2002). Registration and payment required.
(2) See NetHollywood.com Press Release, Los Angeles, 27 February 2003 (telephone verified).
(3) Harriet Ryan, "All in the family: Bakley's brother also led grifter's life," Court TV online (4 March 2003), with links to video and transcript.
(4) See "Psychic Chats with the Dead on ABC" (23 April 2002). The television program was actually recorded prior to Blake's arrest the week before. See also "TV Psychic 'Chats' With Blake's Dead Wife On ABC." (available also here).
(8) See Application For Witness, 25 July 2003, at page 7.
(9) See Application For Witness, 25 July 2003, at page 8.
(10) See Application For Witness, 25 July 2003, at page 9.
(11) See Application For Witness, 25 July 2003, at page 7.
(12) See Application For Witness, 25 July 2003, at page 9.
(13) See Application For Witness, 25 July 2003, at page 10.
(14) See Application For Witness, 25 July 2003, at page 10.
(15) See Application For Witness, 25 July 2003, at page 11.
(16) See Carson Daly caught in death threat scare," San Francisco Chronical/SFgate.com, 22 December 2003.
(17) CNN, 6 May 2002, see transcript.