Robert Blake — the actor best known for his roles on Baretta and in the film In Cold Blood, as well as for being tried and acquitted of his wife’s murder in a high-profile case — has died. He was 89.
Blake’s niece, Noreen Austin, confirmed the news in a public obituary, sharing that Blake died from heart disease in Los Angeles on Thursday, surrounded by his family.
Blake’s career began in childhood when he started acting in MGM’s Our Gang short films, a.k.a The Little Rascals. Blake managed to maintain his career through his teens, and after getting drafted into the Army, Blake returned to acting in his mid-20s.
He was one of the first child stars to gain fame and take on serious roles as an adult actor, and his career spanned over 60 years.
He is perhaps best known for his starring role in the popular cop drama Baretta, in which he starred as Detective Tony Baretta for 82 episodes of the primetime police procedural. The role earned Blake an Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series in 1975.
Blake appeared in countless films and TV shows, most notably the 1967 drama In Cold Blood, as well as 1995’s Money Train. His final acting role came in 1997 with a remarkably memorable performance as the Mystery Man in David Lynch’s surreal masterpiece Lost Highway.
In May 2001, Blake found himself in the headlines following the murder of his wife, Bonny Lee Bakley, for which he was later arrested in April 2002.
Bakley was found shot in the head while sitting inside Blake’s car after the two had eaten at a restaurant in Studio City, California. Blake claimed to have left Bakley sitting in the car while he returned to the restaurant, where he claimed to have accidentally left his pistol, and was not present when the shooting took place.
Blake’s trial began in December 2004, and he was later acquitted of the charges in March 2005. However, the following November, Blake was sued for wrongful death by Bakley’s children, and was found liable in civil court, where he was ordered to pay $30 million. He filed for bankruptcy the following February.
Blake maintained a relatively low public profile in the years that followed.
Blake is survived by three children — Noah Blake and Delinah Blake, from his marriage to Sondra Kerr, and daughter Rose, from his marriage to Bakley.
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