Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Who Murdered Bonny Lee Bakley?

Witnesses

The murder that had occurred on Woodbridge Street on the evening of May 4 was completely out of character for this San Fernando Valley neighborhood that is comprised of mostly older homes, some of which have been remodeled or are in the process of being remodeled. It had always been a quiet neighborhood.

"This is the most peaceful, beautiful neighborhood," said a Woodbridge Street resident who came outside to see what all of the police and paramedic activities were about. "This is not the type of neighborhood where things like this happen."

The police, of course, had interviewed Blake at length about his wife's mysterious murder and, although they released few details, stressed that Blake had been interviewed only as a witness to a homicide and not as a suspect.

Among the other people that the police interviewed were neighborhood residents Andrew Percival and his wife, who had been dining together at Vitello's on Friday evening during the same time frame that Blake and Bonny had dined there. Percival explained that he and his wife had left the restaurant at approximately 9:30 p.m., and that he had seen a man dressed in black who looked like Blake inside the restaurant. When they exited the restaurant and walked toward their nearby home, Percival said that he and his wife had seen the same man dressed in black walking "very, very briskly" past them in the middle of the street toward a car parked behind a dumpster.

As their inquiry into Bonny's murder continued, the investigators talked with Vitello's co-owner, Joseph Restivo, and discovered what appeared to be a major hole in Blake's account of Friday evening's activities. Blake had initially told the police that he had returned to Vitello's once to retrieve the gun he claimed he had left there, and then had gone back again to seek medical assistance for his gravely wounded wife. However, according to what Restivo told the detectives, Blake only returned to the restaurant once, apparently after Bonny had already been shot.

"He ran in here saying something had happened," Restivo said. "He asked for a glass of water. He first said his wife had been hurt, and then he said she had fallen down. Finally he said she had been shot... he was saying that she had been mugged or got shot and asked me to call 911."

However, before Restivo could complete the call, Blake told him that it was not necessary.

"'It's okay, it's already done,"' Restivo quoted Blake as having said. "He asked for water, drank it here, and left... the guy was nuts." Blake reportedly drank two glasses of water while inside the restaurant.

Another problem with Blake's story was that detectives learned from conducting interviews with restaurant employees that Blake's table had been bussed within two minutes of his and Bonny's departure that evening, and no gun had been found there. There were no employees or customers who saw him return to the restaurant at the time the shooting was believed to have occurred, which was when he claimed that he returned to the restaurant to retrieve his gun. Witnesses only recalled seeing him at the establishment after the shooting when he came in asking for help and drank two glasses of water.

Another potentially troubling aspect of the case was the fact that Blake had been coming to Vitello's for 20 years without making any reservations. Vitello's normally did not require reservations, but on the evening of May 4 Blake had made a reservation for the first time according to restaurant employees. He was also known to use the restaurant's valet parking service, which he did not utilize that night, but instead chose to park a block and a half away beneath a burned out street light and walk to the restaurant with his wife. He also introduced Bonny as his wife to the staff that evening, even though he had brought her to the restaurant on prior occasions. No one at the restaurant recalled knowing that Blake was even married.

What did it all mean? Nothing at this point. These were just some among many interesting facts that further served to place a cloud of doubt over Blake's situation. The police knew that much more than circumstantial evidence would be needed if they were going to make a case against Blake. They would need hard physical evidence, scientific evidence, and, ideally, an eyewitness to the murder. There was much to be done before they could draw any conclusions about Blake, and they would soon learn that their investigation would take them in many different directions. They would learn in the coming days that any number of people out of Bonny's past might have wanted her dead, an eventuality that could ultimately shift their focus away from Blake, and rightly so. Just because Blake was her husband and was believed to have been the last person to see her alive didn't necessarily mean that he killed her. It was of paramount importance that all avenues be investigated to ensure that the police nailed the right person. Nobody, at this juncture, wanted to see Baretta, the TV cop hero, arrested for murder.

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