US actor charged with murder

2002-04-23 09:20
Los Angeles - Actor Robert Blake was formally charged with murder on Monday, as prosecutors said the former television detective fired the handgun that killed his wife last year.

Blake (68) was also charged with solicitation of murder, conspiracy and the special circumstance of lying in wait - and could face the death penalty if found guilty. The former star of the 1970s detective series Barreta pleaded not guilty to all charges in the death of his wife, Bonny Lee Bakley (44).

The case has already aroused strong media interest in the US, and news of Blake's arraignment dominated Monday coverage on US TV networks.

Blake's lawyer has proclaimed his client innocent and charged that Bakley cheated lonely men out of money and that she had many enemies who might have wanted her dead.

But prosecutors had a different version. They say that for two years, Blake had planned his wife's death and eventually killed her in cold blood with a WWII pistol he believed was untraceable, after two hit men had failed to do the job.

The charges follow Blake's arrest last week in connection with the murder of his wife, who was shot to death on May 4, 2001, as she sat in her husband's car outside a restaurant where the couple had just eaten.

Prosecutors said Blake drove Bakley to the restaurant and parked the car a city block away. After dinner, they returned to the car where Blake lowered the window and shot his wife twice before tossing the gun into a nearby dumpster.

Blake's former bodyguard, Earle Caldwell (46) was also charged with one count of conspiracy to commit murder. - Sapa/DPA

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