The Defense Case Begins
The First Witnesses for the Defense
M. Gerald Schwartzbach, attorney for defendant Robert Blake, began his case with a series of witnesses who poked holes in various parts of the prosecution's case -- including relatives of Gary McLarty, the veteran stunt man whose claim that Blake wanted him to kill Bakley forms the basis of one of the two solicitation counts.
First on board was Dick Landy, a former drag racer, who was paid $16,000 in cash by Blake for the 1991 Dodge Stealth in which Bakley was shot.
Robert Edwarts, a custom motorcycle maker, also testified that he did some $17,000 work on a motorcycle for Robert Blake.
And Jim King, the Arkansas private eye contacted by William Welch to check into Bonny Bakley's background, made an appearance to state that Welch had informed him Blake was willing to put up with being married to Bakley for the sake of the baby.
A brief appearance was made by Robin Nash, who lived in the house directly across from the shooting scene in May of 2001 (pictured at right), but was out of town the night of the murder.
Also testifying for Blake was Lidia Benavides, a housekeeper who occasionally worked for Blake. Benavides, who testified through a Spanish interpreter, told the court that the actor always kept large amounts of cash in the house. If she earned $70 cleaning, she explained, Blake often paid her with a hundred dollar bill and told her to keep the change.
Benavides spoke about an unfamiliar car that she twice saw near the house roughly a month before the shooting. She said she noticed the car because it was "ugly" and because the occupant, an older man, just sat and watched. She said she'd found the incidents suspicious, but not frightening. Benavides also stated during a brief cross-examination that she had been misquoted in a tabloid article that appeared not long after the murder.
But the main witnesses of the day were Karen McLarty, the estranged wife of prosecution witness Gary McLarty, and Cole, the couple's son.
Karen and Cole McLarty
Cole McLarty, 31, said his father had talked to him in the spring of 2001 and told him about a job Robert Blake wanted him to do. It involved punching out a stalker who had been intruding on Blake's premises (below, at left), and Blake had promised to pay $10,000 to the senior McLarty to handle the matter. Gary McLarty had called his son Cole and asked him to do the job, offering him $3,000 -- apparently intending to keep the other $7,000 for himself.
The witness told jurors that his father had never said anything about Blake trying to hire a hitman to kill Bakley. He said that he had decided to testify because he didn't believe the story his father had told the court and wanted to set the record straight. "I just felt that my father, with his drug problems and what else he could have said, it was stuff that was inaccurate and unfair to Mr. Blake," he said.
Gary McLarty testified on February 7, telling the court that Blake had offered him the money to "pop" Bonny Bakley.
The younger McLarty also testified about his father's frequent and excessive drug use and erratic behavior. Gary McLarty was hospitalized aout two months before the trial began after he experienced hallucinations and crawled about a mile from his house on his belly.
McLarty's wife, Karen -- who has also worked as a double in movies -- testified that her husband had been a regular drug user for thirty years, even when working on film sets. He's been in over 130 films.
When asked if she'd mentioned his drug abuse to anyone on the movie set, the witness said: "I don't know how to put this... There's a lot of people that do cocaine in Hollywood, and it's not looked upon as being that horrible with certain sets of people."
She also described Gary McLarty's paranoid behavior while on cocaine. "He accused me of having his motorcycle bugged. I didn't," she told the court. "His telephones are bugged all the time. In fact when I call, he says, 'You know this is all being taped.' He also believed that satellites were tracking him and that he can read people's minds.
The witness also said that just before her husband was hospitalized in September of 2004, he saw him standing under a street light outside her house. When she approached him, he said he had to stand under the light because if he left, "they would shoot him."
McLarty also said that her husband's behavior had become worse after he got involved with the Bakley shooting. In that time, "he just seemed to fall apart," she said. And she recalled an incident when she talked about the case to him. "He told me, possibly, he might lie," the woman said. "I just couldn't live with myself if I let him do that."