Actor Robert Blake dies at 89
Actor Robert Blake, a former child star who went on to win an Emmy for the 1970s television show Baretta and was later acquitted in the killing of his wife, died Thursday in Los Angeles. He was 89.
Blake's niece, Noreen Austin, said in a statement her uncle died from heart disease.
Born Michael James Gubitosi on Sept. 18, 1933, in New Jersey, he started performing early; at 2 years old, he appeared alongside his brother and sister in the vaudeville act The Three Little Hillbillies. His family moved to Los Angeles, and now going by the name Bobby Blake, he starred in Our Gang comedies for five years and had a notable turn in the movie The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.
As an adult, he starred in 1967's In Cold Blood and earned an Emmy in 1975 for playing Tony Baretta, a detective with a pet cockatoo, in the television show Baretta. He received another Emmy in 1993 for his portrayal of the title character in Judgment Day: The John List Story. List killed his wife and three children before going on the run and assuming a new identity.
Blake met his second wife, Bonny Lee Bakley, at a jazz club in 1999. She gave birth to a daughter in 2000, Rosie, and named Marlon Brando's son, Christian, as the father. DNA tests showed Blake was the biological father, and he married Bakley later that year. On May 4, 2001, Bakley was shot and killed while sitting in Blake's car in Studio City, California. They had just eaten dinner, and Blake told police he had returned to the restaurant to retrieve his gun, which he had accidentally left behind, and then found Bakley slumped over in the passenger seat.
Blake was arrested a year later, with prosecutors accusing him of hiring a hitman to kill Bakley so he could have sole custody of Rosie. He denied the allegations, and was acquitted; later, a civil jury found him liable for Bakley's death, and he was ordered to pay her family $30 million.
He told The Associated Press in 2006 that his goal was to have a second act in Hollywood, and "give my best performance. I'd like to leave a legacy for Rosie about who I am."