Ronald "Duffy" Hambleton
Ronald ("Duffy") Hambleton, like McLarty a veteran Hollywood stuntman, was the next witness to be called to testify in the state's case against actor Robert Blake. Hambleton, claiming also that he was solicited by defendant Robert Blake to kill Bonny Bakley with a gun.
The 68-year-old denied being approached by Blake to do anything illegal in several police interviews during the summer and fall of 2001, but eventually changed his story. Blake acknowledges meeting with the elderly stuntman in March of 2001, but says the purpose of the contact was to get Hambleton's assistance in making a documentary about dirt biking.
Hambleton, who came across as delusional during a preliminary hearing almost two years before, seemed heavier and healthier than before. His once-shaggy hair was shaved off. And, at least in the beginning, he seemed more certain in his testimony.
As in the preliminary, Hambleton repeated the assertion he'd made at the preliminary that Blake had talked extensively about his feelings toward Bonny Lee Bakley and, at some point, asked him to assassinate her. He told jurors that Blake had with him a notebook filled with Bakley's nude photos and provocative letters she'd written to men as part of her "lonely hearts" business. "He was trying to convince me how evil she was," said Hambleton.
The witness then described several scenarios that he claimed Blake had proposed to him -- including one in which Blake would park outside a restaurant leaving Bakley alone in the car.
"I said, 'Well, you know the cops will have you right there on the spot asking questions,'" Hambleton told the court. "And his response to that was, 'Don't worry about that, I'm an actor.'"
The former stunt man said that he'd suggested to Blake that he purchase a prepaid phone card for further conversations. "I explained you wouldn't be able to trace the calls," Hambleton testified. He said that later, Blake did go to a 7-11 convenience store where he purchased a calling card.
Prosecutors were able to track a phone card sold to Robert Blake on the day of the meeting, as well as a receipt for drinks they had during the March 2001 meeting.
In several interviews with LAPD detectives between May of 2001 and November of the same year, Hambleton repeatedly stated that he had not been asked by Blake to kill anyone -- or to do anything else illegal. At one point, he explained to police that he'd made up the story about the solicitation and told it to some people living at his desert home in order to flush out a man, David Attwater, who he believed to be a law enforcement "plant" gathering evidence about rampant drug activities at the compound. He explained that he'd learned the facts of the case by reading tabloids.
The witness also referred to his residence as a "halfway house" which he uses as a residence for drug users, friends and associates, and a few others that he called "idiots." Hambleton also admitted to using drugs himself, though he insisted that he wasn't using drugs at the time of his encounter with Blake.
Under cross-examination, Hambleton was unable to remember exactly what Blake said when he allegedly proposed that Hambleton kill Bakley. "So you could not recall the exact words that Mr. Blake used?" defense attorney M. Gerald Schwartzbach asked the retired stunt man.
Hambleton replied that he "couldn't recall because he used many different adjectives for how he wanted her taken care of... I'm not sure what word that was."
Much of the cross-examination seemed directed at setting the stage for future impeachment witnesses who would take the stand to contradict Hambleton's testimony. Hambleton was asked, for instance, about a late 1999 incident when he summoned police to his Lucerne Valley home complaining that there were twenty armed men on his property. Even as police arrived and found no one but Hambleton there, the stunt man was still on the telephone insisting that the intruders were present. He was finally arrested after he came to the door with a rifle which he pointed at police.
Hambleton denied the incident, even though there are police records and a recently-resolved firearms charge to show what took place that night. Hambleton received a 90-day sentence to be served only on weekends. He admitted, however, that he'd changed his original story about not being solicited by Blake only after receiving a grand jury summons.
The defense attorney also asked the witness about paranoid behavior other individuals. "Isn't it true," he asked, "that a telephone repairman came to your house in 2001 and you thought they were trying to bug your phone?" "No," Hambleton answered.
The attorney also asked him if he once complained that a 4-foot-tall horned animal was after him. Hambleton again denied the incident.
Hambleton did acknowledge, however, that he received a motor bike from Blake -- something that would tend to bolster the actor's claim that the meeting had nothing to do with Bakley, but rather was arranged by Blake to seek advice about the dirt biking documentary.