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Woman fingers another suspect in Bakley murder

By Matt Bean

Robert Blake
Robert Blake

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(Court TV) -- A Los Angeles lawyer said this week that a woman he represents overheard Marlon Brando's son telling a potential hitman that Bonny Lee Bakley needed to die, although the lawyer did not offer crucial details that would bolster his client's previously unheard claim.

"She heard Christian Brando say that, 'We need to put a bullet into Bonny Lee Bakley's head,' and Duffy Hambleton said, 'That's right,'" said Los Angeles attorney Brian Oxman on Court TV's "Catherine Crier LIVE."

According to Oxman, his client, Diane Matson, overheard the speakerphone conversation between Brando and Ronald "Duffy" Hambleton, a key witness in the prosecution's case against Robert Blake, who is charged with his wife Bakley's May 4, 2001, murder.

Oxman did not say how Brando knew Hambleton or when their conversation took place, and refused to say why his client waited until now to come forward. But the lawyer said Matson is willing to take the stand with her "bombshell" claim that "rocks the foundations of the prosecution against Robert Blake."

Eric Dubin, the civil lawyer for Bakley's surviving family, responded to the new claims by saying Brando was merely a "convenient target."

"I think that Christian Brando is the satanic cult in the Robert Blake case," said Dubin, referring to the cult claims that have recently clouded the case against accused killer Scott Peterson. "It makes for good media but has nothing to do with the truth."

A spokesperson with the Los Angeles County District Attorney's office said that they were aware of Oxman's claims, and that the LAPD was attempting to contact Matson. 

"We're not going to discount credible evidence," said spokesperson Jane Robison, but added,  "It's my understanding that this witness gave a completely different statement at the time she was interviewed."

Former "Baretta" actor Robert Blake is free on $1.5 million bail pending his murder trial. He could spend life in jail if convicted.

Bakley was found shot twice in Blake's Dodge Stealth behind a Studio City Italian restaurant the couple often frequented.

The former stuntman Hambleton and two other witnesses testified at Blake's preliminary hearing that the Blake had a laundry list of potential ways to "whack," "pop" and "dispose of" his wife of four years.

Hambleton admitted on the stand that his account of Blake's alleged murder pitch wavered, changing three times in police statements.  

According to Oxman, Matson met Brando in October 2000 and maintained a platonic relationship with the troubled scion to help him kick his drug and alcohol addiction. She was with Brando in Washington state during the time Bakley was shot in California, Oxman said.

Brando, son of actor Marlon Brando, ended his turbulent relationship with Bakley, a professional grifter, and reportedly believed the child she was carrying was his until a DNA test showed Blake to be the father.

In a taped phone conversation that debuted during Blake's preliminary hearing, Brando could be heard telling Bakley, "You're lucky somebody ain't out there to put a bullet in your head."

Based on that conversation, Oxman said Matson's new claim demonstrates a "consistent pattern."

In May 1990, Brando fatally shot his half-sister's longtime boyfriend, Dag Drollet, who he believed to be abusing her while she was pregnant. He pleaded guilty to manslaughter and served nearly five years of a 10-year sentence. His half-sister, Cheyenne Brando, who gave birth to Drollet's child, later hanged herself.

Oxman said Matson had never met Hambleton, but recognized his voice and name during the conversation. She shared a nickname with the stuntman, said the lawyer: "She was Duffy One and he was Duffy Two, and vice versa." 

Blake's lawyer, Thomas Mesereau, Jr., did not immediately return calls for comment.


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