Baretta actor Robert Blake went from TV star to tabloid fixation overnight in 2001 when his second wife, Bonny Lee Bakley, was murdered.
Blake resurfaced in 2019, telling cops in a TV interviewer that he’s “beat up to hell” but “still here.” On March 9, 2023, Blake passed away at the age of 89 from heart disease at home surrounded by loved ones, according to TMZ.
Here’s what to know about Blake’s career, his criminal trial, and his life before his death.
Robert Blake had a six-decade film and TV career.
Blake got his start in Hollywood as a child actor in the late 1930s, starring as Mickey in the Our Gang short film series, before playing Little Beaver in the Red Ryder film series the following decade.
As an adult, his breakout role was his portrayal of real-life murderer Perry Smith in the 1967 film In Cold Blood, a screen adaptation of the Truman Capote novel of the same name. And from 1975 to 1978, he starred in the ABC detective series Baretta, playing the titular plainclothes cop, a role that won him the Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series Emmy Award in 1975.
His most recent screen roles came in the 1990s: He played a transit captain in the 1995 action movie Money Train and a “mystery man” in the 1997 neo-noir Lost Highway.
He was acquitted in his wife’s murder but found civilly liable for her wrongful death.
Blake married second wife Bonny Lee Bakley in 2000, a few months after welcoming a daughter named Rosie with her. But Bakley was shot to death outside a restaurant in Studio City, Calif., and Blake was later charged with her murder.
At Blake’s criminal trial, the prosecution argued that Blake killed Bakley after he couldn’t find someone to kill her for him. However, the authorities couldn’t link the murder weapon to the actor or to anyone else, according to ABC News.
The criminal trial jury ultimately acquitted Blake of murder and one count of solicitation to commit murder, and a judge dismissed another solicitation count.
Months later, however, Bakley’s children filed a wrongful death suit against Blake, and the civil trial jury found the actor liable for her death, ordering him to pay Bakley’s children $30 million in wrongful death damages. An appellate court cut those damages in half, and eventually, the two parties reached a confidential settlement.
Before his death in March 2023, Blake said he was “beat up to all hell."
In 2019, Robert gave an update on his life to ABC News. “I’m 85 years old, I'm beat up all to hell and gone, but I'm still here,” Blake told the outlet in an exclusive interview.
He also had a message for the cops that put him in a “cement box” for a year: “I hate ‘em. I’m still here, you bastards. I’m still here. I didn’t die in that box. You got it? I’m still here.”
He remarried, but his third marriage eventually ended.
"I’m not giving up," he told the news outlet. "I ain’t stick a gun in my mouth. I’m not juicing. I ain’t taking dope. … I keep waiting for God to jump in. But he doesn’t owe me anything, because I’ve been paid in full a thousand times over. If you live to be 1,000, you’ll never be anybody with more miracles in their life than me."