Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Who Murdered Bonny Lee Bakley?

Enter Harland Braun, Esq.

Blake returned to his rustic one-level dwelling on Dilling Street near Troost Avenue shortly after 8:30 p.m. Saturday. He was hunkered down in the seat of the same Mercedes-Benz that had earlier whisked him away, and this time he covered his face with his baseball cap in an attempt to avoid the members of the media that were camped outside his house. A man in the sedan's back seat got out and held up the yellow police tape so that the car could pass beneath it and park in the driveway.

Approximately 30 minutes later the Mercedes, again carrying Blake, left again. This time it was gone only a few minutes, and when it returned attorney Harland Braun got out and told reporters that Blake had been taken to a hospital to treat high blood pressure.

Cameramen camp out outside Blake's home
Cameramen camp out outside Blake's home

"He's in an absolute state of shock," Braun told reporters. "He's doing fine and has it under control. But the doctors want to keep him a little bit longer to make sure he's okay." Braun told reporters that Blake would likely remain in the hospital for a couple of days. Blake, however, would be released from the hospital the following morning.

Braun also stated that Bonny believed that someone had been stalking her in recent weeks and feared for her life. She had asked Blake to start carrying a gun. The gun, which Blake claimed he retrieved the night of the murder, was turned over to the police. It was licensed for Blake to carry by the Culver City Police Department and, according to Braun, Blake owned numerous guns that he kept inside his house. Braun also said that Bonny had an "interesting past... that may have caught up with her," but did not elaborate at that time beyond saying: "Apparently she's had some criminal history, so it could be any number of people that had it in for her."

Why had Blake parked his car a block and a half away from the restaurant, on a side street, when he could have used the restaurant's parking lot or valet parking? So no one would notice it, Braun said.

When asked why Blake would have left Bonny alone in the car to return to the restaurant to retrieve his gun, Braun told reporters that it had been a spur of the moment type decision.

"In hindsight," Braun said, "he wished he hadn't done that. But he just reacted instantly, having left the gun behind and remember, there was not anything specific (about Bonny's fears for her life)... he just forgot it (the gun), like anyone who ever left behind an umbrella... he just knew that she had a generalized concern and maybe he thought she was a little paranoid."

According to Braun, Blake only married Bonny because he had gotten her pregnant. Their relationship began as a casual sexual relationship, and Blake, according to Braun, had felt that she had tricked him into marrying her by allowing herself to get pregnant.

"He married her out of a sense of obligation," Braun said. "They were not close... the nature of her business was to con people, especially those desperately in need and the lonely... It may have been some business associate (that killed her). It could have been a relative... when you are dealing with people's emotions like that someone could come out and kill her."

Harland Braun, Blake's attorney
Harland Braun, Blake's attorney

"Murder is usually a highly motivated thing," Braun said, "but here we have a woman we don't know a lot about. Someone took that opportunity to kill her when Robert left the car. She was very vulnerable."

Braun said that despite the fact that Bonny occupied the house in back of Blake's, their marriage was improving.

"It wasn't your normal love," he said. "It wasn't a loving relationship. He married her because she's the mother of his daughter... they had a common interest in the child."

Blake's civil lawyer, Barry Felsen, who represented Blake in his business and entertainment affairs, echoed some of Braun's comments. According to Felsen, Blake and his wife had a difficult relationship and had recently been involved in an uneasy dispute over the child shortly after she was born on June 2, 2000. Because of a purported ongoing romantic relationship with Christian Brando, Marlon Brando's son, who had spent five years of a ten-year sentence in prison after pleading guilty to voluntary manslaughter in the shooting death of his half-sister Cheyenne's boyfriend, Dag Drollet, Bonny, thinking that the child was Christian's, had initially named the girl Christian Shannon Brando. Most of the claims that she had been involved with Christian Brando had come from Bonny herself, and there remains a great deal of uncertainty surrounding the extent of the relationship. Nonetheless, at one point she told Blake that she wasn't sure if the child was Brando's or Blake's, prompting Blake to insist that DNA tests be performed. The test results proved Robert Blake was the girl's father. Afterward, Blake "did the right thing," according to Felsen, and married Bonny. Despite the fact that he married her, however, he hired private investigators to begin delving into her background.

Because of questions that had arisen about her past, Felsen said that a prenuptial agreement had been drawn up before she and Blake married on November 15, 2000, as well as an addendum to the prenuptial agreement that required her to refrain from committing illegal activities on Blake's property. The agreement didn't stop her, however, according to Felsen.

"She had trunks full of stuff," he said. "She was still placing classified ads in newspapers. I don't know if you would call it porn business, but she would send (men) nude photographs of herself, and they would send her money and she would promise to meet them... if he (Blake) was involved (in her murder), this is the crummiest alibi story I've ever heard. I left my gun in the restaurant? To make up something like that you'd have to be a moron. Robert is a smart guy."

Few people in Blake's neighborhood knew Bonny despite the fact that she and Blake had been married for nearly seven months at the time of her death. Most did not even know that the two were married.

"I never saw her," said a U.S. Postal Service employee who delivered mail to Blake's Dilling Street home. "He was a real nice guy and has a beautiful daughter."

Blake's neighbors, in the meantime, referred to the actor as a "nice man," but said that they did not know much about him or his wife.

"It's bizarre," said one of Blake's neighbors, referring to the murder and the investigation. "It's very bizarre. A little bit concerning, disconcerting to say the least. But you know, hopefully it turns out to be just a bad set of circumstances."

After the search of Blake's home was completed, LAPD remained tight-lipped about what was seized. They also refused to comment on a possible motive for Bonny's murder. However, it was leaked to the media that detectives had found the following words written on the bathroom walls of Blake's home: "I'M NOT GOING DOWN FOR THIS."

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