Wed, Dec 22, 2004 - Page 7 News List

Murder trial of film star Robert Blake gets underway

AFP , Los Angeles

Fallen Hollywood star Robert Blake murdered his con-artist wife because he hated her and wanted to get their baby daughter out of her clutches, a court heard as his long-delayed trial got underway.

Blake, the star of the film In Cold Blood and the 1970s television series Baretta, finally went on trial more than three and a half years after the murder of his wife of six months, Bonny Lee Bakley.

The 71-year-old former child star is accused of shooting Bakley, a scam artist who allegedly tricked him into fatherhood, in the head as she sat in the couple's car outside a Hollywood restaurant in May 2001.

In opening arguments on Monday, prosecutor Shellie Samuels said Blake regarded the 44-year-old Bakley as "trailer trash" and became obsessed with keeping her and her family away from their now four-year-old daughter.

"The victim in this was killed because the defendant wanted sole custody of their child and wanted the baby away from her mother and her mother's family," she told jurors in Los Angeles.

"The people will establish that the defendant despised Bonny Lee Bakley, that she got pregnant against the defendant's wishes and she refused to have an abortion when he asked her to," Samuels said.

Blake, who met Bakley in a jazz club where he had sex with her, thought his wife's family was "low-life trailer trash that all made their living working for Bonny in her illegal scams to scam money," she added.

Blake has contended that he had nothing to do with the murder, which he says took place when he went back to the restaurant where the couple had dined to retrieve a gun that he had accidentally left behind.

Blake's lawyers have said that Bakley, who was obsessed with celebrities, had many enemies as a result of her mail-order lonely hearts con schemes and that she was shot by someone other than Blake.

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