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Police seek clues in death of Robert Blake's wife

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Robert Blake leaves home on Saturday  

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Autopsy report sealed

Ex-husband disputes allegation

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LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- Police spent about 45 minutes Monday afternoon examining a construction site less than two blocks from the restaurant where actor Robert Blake and his late wife had dinner on the night she was killed.

Officers took with them at least one item found in a garbage can.

Police were saying little about the investigation, but have confirmed that Blake has been interviewed as a witness in the death of Bonny Lee Bakley, 44. An autopsy report has been completed, but it was being withheld pending further analysis.

Bakley was shot in the head Friday night as she sat in a car outside Vitello's Restaurant, where she and Blake has just eaten.

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Police are investigating the death as a homicide, but have not named any suspects.

Police searched the site of a house being remodeled near the restaurant. Photographs were taken of the area and fingerprints lifted from garbage cans before detectives dumped over one of the cans . They retrieved an item that they placed in a brown manila envelope.

Detectives had their backs to news cameras at the time, obstructing view of the item.

Blake, who portrayed a tough-talking detective on a 1970s television series, has hired a private investigator to help find his wife's killer, his lawyer said. Blake, 67, met Sunday with Scott Ross, the private investigator.

Blake's home was searched Saturday. "They were looking for anything that would show she had troubles with anyone from her past, including Mr. Blake," said Harland Braun, Blake's attorney.

Autopsy report sealed

The autopsy report was completed Sunday but did not contain a cause of death, pending further investigation and toxicology reports, which typically take four to six weeks, said Scott Carrier, a spokesman for the coroner's office.

Though autopsies are public information, the Los Angeles Police Department has put a security hold on Bakley's autopsy, a routine move in high-profile cases, said Carrier.

Blake spent part of the weekend in a hospital because he was distressed and suffers from high blood pressure, Braun said. His client has not said anything publicly about the shooting.

He told police he left his wife in the car and returned to the restaurant in Studio City when he realized he had left his gun inside. Bakley believed someone had been stalking her and had asked the actor to carry the weapon, the lawyer said.

Over the weekend, Vitello's co-owner Joe Restivo said Blake appeared to have retrieved nothing. Restivo said Blake looked flustered, drank two glasses of water and left.

Upon returning to the car, Blake discovered his wife had been shot, his lawyer said.

Blake summoned help from a nearby house. Paramedics administered CPR at the scene, but Bakley was declared dead on arrival at a nearby hospital.

LAPD spokesman Don Hartwell said Blake had been interviewed "as a witness to the crime."

The couple's 11-month-old daughter, Rose, is being cared for by Blake's relatives.

Ex-husband disputes allegation

Reporters camped out Monday outside Blake's home on a tree-lined street behind a black, wrought-iron fence equipped with an automatic gate. The words "Mata Hari Ranch" are painted on the front.

Bars cover his front door and windows. Behind the main house on the property sits a two-story stucco house.

Blake's lawyer appeared to raise questions about Bakley's background. Braun said Bakley had an "interesting past" that "seems to have caught up with her." He did not specify what he meant.

Bakley was a defendant in a 1997 case filed in U.S. District Court in Little Rock, Arkansas, in which she was charged with possessing false identification documents with intent to use them, according to court documents found through a Lexis search.

She was sentenced to three years of probation.

A former husband disputed the suggestion that someone from her past was responsible for her death.

"Her past had nothing to do with this," said Paul Gawron, who divorced Bakley in the early 1980s and with whom he had three children. He now lives in her home in Memphis, Tennessee, and said he had maintained a close relationship with her and had helped her with her mail-order business.

"She was a good woman that made bad choices," said Gawron.

Blake and Bakley were not living together, he said. Instead, she was living in the stucco house behind the main one on the actor's lot, he said.

Gawron said Bakley had been married at least five times.



RELATED STORY:
Actor Blake hires attorney in wake of wife's death
May 5, 2001

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