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Actor Robert Blake Arrested in Connection With Wife's Murder

Aired April 18, 2002 - 20:40   ET


AARON BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: In Los Angeles now, police have entered the residence of the actor Robert Blake, and appear now to be on the verge of making an arrest in the now almost year-old murder of Robert Blake's wife.

Blake has been a suspect of sorts in this since the murder took place on the 4th of May a year ago, and now it appears that police are ready to make an arrest. CNN's Thelma Gutierrez is outside the house. She has the best view we have of what's going on. Thelma, what can you tell us.

THELMA GUTIERREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Aaron, right now I could tell you that we're standing right outside of the Hidden Hills community, which is a gated community in a very quiet suburb right outside of Los Angeles.

If you take a look right behind me, you can see an unmarked detective vehicle that is blocking the residents' way into Hidden Hills. People here are getting off of work. It's time to come home. Many people have passed by.

Now they have blocked that area off. Two cars parked blocking off that area. Four different LAPD cars just passed by a short time ago, Aaron, probably on their way to the actor's home. Detectives have passed by also in unmarked cars.

Again, I had mentioned that Hidden Hills is a gated community, a very quiet suburb outside of Los Angeles. We saw a sheriff's vehicle drive up past the gate, lots of activity. You can see media here. Detectives in several unmarked cars pulled up with LAPD as well.

Robert Blake has lived here since the time of the murder. He bought this house for about $1.3 million. He bought it a short time -- about...

BROWN: I'm sorry. Let me interrupt.

GUTIERREZ: Go ahead.

BROWN: Let me interrupt you for just a second. Stay. Don't go anywhere. In the picture, we have now a helicopter shot of the residence. We've just see what, I think it's fair to assume are a number of police officers, I didn't count how many, moving towards the front or at least towards the door of the residence. They are, as we see it on our monitor here, standing just outside. We now see a couple of other officers, who are holding back from there. Thelma, I'm going to get to you in a second.

Let me give a little more background here. This killing, which took place on the 4th of May, took place outside of a restaurant in Los Angeles. The couple, Blake and his wife, had dined at the restaurant. He walked her -- this is the story he has told police. He walked her out to the car, and then he said he went back into the restaurant because he had forgotten something.

The something he forgot was a handgun registered to him. He said it slipped out of his waistband of his pants, and he told police later that he was carrying the gun because he had fears for her life, that it was protection.

In any case, he says in a statement he gave police, that he came back out, found his wife, who was sitting in the passenger seat of the car, had been shot. That he ran to a neighbor and a friend. The friend came over. Blake says he went back into the restaurant and called police, and his wife was pronounced dead at the hospital shortly thereafter.

That's the background. Now, Thelma, tell me a little bit more of what you're seeing, and just be mindful that we are watching a helicopter shot of the house, and I may interrupt you as you go.

GUTIERREZ: Aaron, I can tell you, you have a much better view of the house and all the activity that's going on over there, as opposed to me. I am standing outside of this Hidden Hills community with the rest of the media. All I can see, at this point out here, are a couple of police cars that have blocked off the entrance to Hidden Hills. That's pretty much all I can see here, Aaron.

BROWN: OK, let me ask you one quick question and then I'll turn this around a little bit. Can you give me any idea, were you able to count how many cars, how many officers went in before they blocked off the front of this gated community?

GUTIERREZ: I saw on sheriff's car that came in. I saw three unmarked cars with detectives inside, hard to get a count, dark windows, hard to look in the car, and then two additional cars, one that you're probably looking at right now, which has blocked off the road to Hidden Hills.

BROWN: OK, now Thelma I want you to stay where you are, and because presumably at some point, and I can't -- none of us knows at exactly what point, that they're going to come out, and we want to report on that.

Charles Feldman of our LA Bureau has been working the story, literally since it broke on May the 4th. He by happenstance is here in New York now. Charles, I think it's fair to say that the imminent arrest of Mr. Blake has been a subject that you and I literally have joked about over the last several months, because over the last several months we've talked a lot about the possibility that what happened, it never quite happened. Apparently, it is happening now. That seems pretty clear.

Tell me, if you can, what has happened in the last few days that led police and prosecutors to decide they had the evidence that they felt they needed to make the arrest, and let me throw in part two while I'm going here, do we believe that Mr. Blake is the only person who will be arrested?

CHARLES FELDMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Let me answer that question first, Aaron. No, it will be a double arrest is my understanding. It's going to be both Robert Blake, and I'm told it's going to be the person who has served from time to time as his bodyguard or handyman, whatever you want to call him.

So, it is going to be two. Mr. Blake, it is my understanding, will be charged with Homicide, the other person with either Homicide or Conspiracy for that. This case has been going on, as you said for quite some time. Why now?

It is my understanding that over the past several weeks, actually the past couple of months, the LAPD has, on a number of occasions, felt that it had enough evidence to make the move that appears to be in the process of being made now. But on a number of occasions, the District Attorney wanted to be very, very cautious.

As I'm sure you remember, the O.J. Simpson case was a real debacle for the police department, for the former District Attorney. He is now out of office. The new District Attorney wanted to be very careful about this. He wanted to make sure that all the, as I was told, all the eyes were dotted and all the T's were crossed.

And so, every time the LAPD would go to the District Attorney and say, "we think we've got our case. We've got our man, or in this case our men," the D.A., I'm told, would say, "go back. Get more. I want to be convinced that this is going to be iron clad." Go ahead.

BROWN: OK. I want to talk a little bit more about the parties in this. We do have some pictures that we can show you now. The pictures you're looking at now is a helicopter shot that's live as you can tell. We have some pictures we've turned around on tape, of the police cars going in.

As we look at that, and I want to talk about, I guess -- let me make something clear here, before I move on. This thing has been buzzing around LA really since this morning, that this was going down today, and as Thelma indicated, there's been a lot of media around there, which has made LAPD and the prosecutors none too happy.

Once again now, we're back on a live picture of that car, the white car in the lower part of your screen, is new to our shot. I don't want to guess whether that's the car he'll go in or not. We'll just watch and see what happens. Go ahead, Charles.

FELDMAN: I was going to say that one of the problems I understand they had was that I was told the arrest was planned to take place earlier this morning, but one very important consideration is there is a child on the premises. BROWN: It's his three-year-old daughter of the couple. Rose is her name.

FELDMAN: That's correct. That's the daughter of Robert Blake and the deceased, (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

BROWN: Is it Bakley?

FELDMAN: Bakley.

BROWN: Thank you.

FELDMAN: And it's their daughter, and there was great concern about not doing anything that would traumatize a three-year-old infant, and there was some thinking this morning that the police might make the move when the child is taken out for, what I gather, is a daily one-hour constitutional by the maid.

But for whatever reason, that didn't go down this morning, and that's why we're sitting here now, watching this unfold, and I think that what's to do with the child is still very much on the minds of the police. They don't want anything to happen with that child on the premises, and understandably so.

BROWN: All right. Now, here's the question. Well, let's just keep this shot up for a bit here and see what happens, and while we do, I want to back and fill a little bit, because I think people may have forgotten some things about both Mr. Blake and about his now deceased wife.

Mr. Blake was for a time a very successful actor. He was a child actor, was in the "Our Gang" movies and television as a kid. He, I guess most people probably remember him from "Baretta," the TV show. He was -- his real breakthrough role was as one of the killers in the Truman Capote, the movie on the Truman Capote book "In Cold Blood."

He has not had, in all honesty, much of a career since. He's almost 70 years old now. He's always kind of lived a bit, or at least liked to portray himself as living a bit on the edge, which I suppose in Hollywood terms helps drive the interest in all of this.

His deceased wife has a story of her own, and part of the theory of the defense, which will now become the defense is maybe there are things in her past that led to her killing. Why don't you fill in a little of that.

FELDMAN: Yes. I mean...

BROWN: Charles, hang on a second. Thelma, I know you're there. Tell me what you got.

GUTIERREZ: All right, Aaron. Just a few minutes ago, I had mentioned how the LAPD had blocked off the entrance to Hidden Hills. Those cars have just now taken off. They are letting residents back into this area, and one thing, Aaron, that we had been told is that there is a back entrance and exit to Hidden Hills. So, some people are speculating that it's very possible they may have left through the back, after picking up Mr. Blake, and that is why the police have left this area and why perhaps they are allowing residents to travel back into Hidden Hills.

BROWN: Well, I guess that would simply mean we've been outwitted again. I suppose there are other possibilities here, but I'm not surprised that we've been outwitted again in that regard. I assume, Thelma, that the area is buzzing with media helicopters, not simply the two that we've seen from our affiliates KCBS and KKEL (ph) out in LA.

This is what happens these days, and as I said, this thing has been buzzing around LA that it was going to go down today for a couple of days. So everybody clearly had notice. Thelma, when you want to jump in, you let us know. In the meantime, I'm going to back to Charles and pick up a little bit on Ms. Bakley.

FELDMAN: Yes. She is somebody who has a very interesting, and I think it's fair to say, sordid past herself. This is somebody who longed to be part of the Hollywood scene, and we know this because she used to tape record her own conversations.

BROWN: Hang on one second. Harland Braun who is Robert Blake's attorney, has told the Associated Press that, and we will now report this, that Mr. Blake, Robert Blake, his client, is now currently being arrested by LAPD. There's a degree of self-evidence here, as we look down on the scene.

But for accuracy sake, Harland Braun, who is a lawyer that shows up in a good many high profile cases in Los Angeles. He had, I don't remember now which of the Los Angeles police involved in the Rodney King case.

But I know he had one of those, and he is a very successful, high profile defense attorney in Los Angeles and since the beginning of this, has set out to give police and I guess potential jurors an alternative theory, a reasonable doubt theory that, in fact, there were other reasons and other people who might have wanted Robert Blake's wife dead, which is, Charles, where you were in kind of backing and filling a bit on who she is in this.

FELDMAN: Yes, what I was saying is that she used to record her own telephone conversations, and on those conversations, she said that she wanted to be part of the Hollywood scene. She wanted to marry some rich actor. She wanted to move to Hollywood, and she wanted to have the stardom at least rub off on her.

And she set about doing that very carefully, and she finally ensnared Robert Blake. She also had...

BROWN: Tell me if I'm right about this. This is how I remember this, that at the center of this is the child we talked about, the three-year-old.

FELDMAN: The three-year-old Rose. BROWN: And originally she believed that that was the child of Christian Brando.

FELDMAN: That's correct.

BROWN: And ultimately DNA tests proved that that was not so, and then she said that it was Mr. Blake's child and then Mr. Blake had DNA tests done or DNA tests were done in any case, and those came out that, in fact, it was his child, and then they got married. And by everything I remember reading about this, it was somewhat of an acrimonious marriage.

FELDMAN: Very much so. He made it very plain that he didn't love her. She didn't love him. They were rarely seen together in public. In fact, interestingly the night of her murder was one of the very few times that they had been seen publicly as a couple.

She didn't live in the same house as Mr. Blake. She lived on a smaller home adjacent to his property, and while she was married to him, she still was having affairs with other men. She was making phone calls. She was trying to hook up with other actors in Hollywood.

So yes, the attorney for Robert Blake's defense all along has been that if anyone killed her, it was someone from her past out to get even with her.

BROWN: Now, in point of fact, the defense has absolutely no obligation here to put out a theory of the defense.

FELDMAN: That's correct.

BROWN: It is up to the prosecution, as this Constitutional Law 101, I apologize a little for that, the prosecution has to prove the case, and just again to lay out what the theory of the case is, is that the police will and prosecutors will allege, it is our belief, that Mr. Blake, who withdrew a good amount of money, $100,000 as I recall, in the weeks or perhaps months before his wife's murder.

That he hired someone to commit this crime, and that we believe the second person, who's been taken into custody, and Charles, I want to show you a name and you tell me if that is the name you believe. We're going to join Larry King at 9:00.

Harland Braun, Mr. Blake's attorney says that Blake will be taken from this house, which we now believe is in fact his sister's home in Hidden Hills, and he'll be taken to Parker Center, which is the main Los Angeles police station, named after William Parker, former Chief of Police in Los Angeles, in downtown L.A.

That is where he'll be processed. All of this, as much as I hate to say it, harkens us all back to when O.J. Simpson was arrested, taken to Parker Center, and the whole thing played out as you all know.

Does that name mean anything that I showed you?


BROWN: I have to do this on the air.


BROWN: I don't want to report this yet, but we do believe that Mr. Blake's bodyguard...

FELDMAN: That's what I was told.

BROWN: ... is the second person who will be in, and based on the scenario that's been laid out, he would have been the person that pulled the trigger.


BROWN: No. OK, go ahead.

FELDMAN: The scenario that I understand is that it will be alleged that it was Mr. Blake who actually did the killing, and that the bodyguard or handyman was involved in some fashion, but was not actually in town.

BROWN: Thank you. No, thank you. I appreciate in this case being slapped around on that. Again, Robert Blake, the actor, has been arrested by Los Angeles police. His lawyer -- and will be charged in the murder of his wife, a murder that took place almost exactly a year ago, on May the 4th.

His lawyer says he's being taken, will be taken to Parker Center where he'll be processed. I think that process itself is pretty familiar. He'll be booked. Photos will be taken. He'll be fingerprinted, and he'll be taken to a holding area, and then a series of steps will take place. There will either be at some point a preliminary hearing or a Grand Jury could meet. One of two things could happen. Yes, Charles.

FELDMAN: Monday, I'm told an arraignment in Van Nuys, California.

BROWN: And, all of this will then move from the police through the court system in Los Angeles. As we said at the beginning of this, prosecutors and police in truth in Los Angeles, are very nervous in these kinds of high profile cases.

They create all sorts of problems and they have been very meticulous in moving through this investigation. A year, almost a year, is a very long time to bring a murder case. Obviously, they've taken a good deal of time.

We will update, we will be continuing to update this as the night goes along. Larry King coming up in a few moments, and then of course, "NEWSNIGHT" coming up at 10:00 Eastern time. And again, Robert Blake, the actor, has been arrested now in the murder of his wife.

This has been breaking news from CNN. "LARRY KING LIVE" is up next.





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