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Police arrest Robert Blake in wife's killing

Blake being led into police headquarters in Los Angeles Thursday.  

LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- Actor Robert Blake and his bodyguard were arrested Thursday in the killing of Blake's wife, who was found shot in the head nearly one year ago in their car outside a restaurant where they had just eaten, authorities said.

Blake, 69, handcuffed and wearing a white shirt and green baseball cap, was taken into custody at his sister's home in the gated Hidden Hills community where he has been staying with his young daughter, Rosie, who is almost 2 years old.

Police would not disclose the specific charge against Blake, but said it involved the killing of his wife of six months, Bonny Lee Bakley, 44.

The star of the 1970s detective series "Baretta" was led away from the home in a white unmarked sheriff's car and driven away.

Police also confirmed the arrest of Blake bodyguard Earle Caldwell in connection with the killing. He was taken into custody a short while earlier in Burbank by officers who handcuffed him while he lay sprawled in the middle of the street.

Cary Goldstein, the attorney for the late Bakley and members of her family, said he was pleased with the arrest.

"After thousands and thousands of hours of investigation by the LAPD, they have concluded that Robert Blake and Earle Caldwell are responsible for the death of Bonny Bakley," he told CNN.

"The police followed the lead and apparently it all fell into place. They have the evidence with which to do this," Goldstein said. "They're going to put on a thorough, competent case because they're not going to risk losing this."

The victim's sister, Margerry Bakley, said family members were "pleased with the LAPD and saddened just the same. We still lost Bonny and have not seen Rose."

Blake's attorney, Harland Braun, said his client was surprised after being informed officers were headed toward his home in the Hidden Hills gated community. He said he expects a court arraignment by Monday.

Braun said he was awaiting Blake's arrival at Parker Center, the police headquarters in downtown Los Angeles where he would await his client's arrival at the homicide division.

"I am really surprised. I got a call from the police just before they got to his house to have me call Robert and alert him that they were coming," Braun told CNN. "He was shocked, but I just said, 'Remain calm, come on out and cooperate.'"

He said Blake was trying to make arrangements for his young daughter's care. Braun said Blake's grown daughter from a different marriage would look after Rosie.

Blake, who portrayed a killer in the movie based on Truman Capote's classic "In Cold Blood," had told police his wife was in the car after the two had eaten together May 4 in a Studio City restaurant. He told police he went back into the restaurant to retrieve his gun, and when he returned to the car he found his wife shot in the head.

Blake, who has had very little to say about the case, had been the focus of the police investigation. He was interviewed as a witness to the crime, and his home was searched at least twice by police.

At his wife's funeral in late May 2001, Blake walked to the casket, placed his right hand on it and bowed his head. Someone handed him a white rose from the floral arrangement atop the casket.

"I stand before God to make this pledge," he said just before the casket was lowered, "As long as I have breath, I will do everything to make my daughter Rosie's life the best I can."

In the weeks after the slaying, Blake bodyguard and personal assistant Caldwell told CNN the possibility that the actor may have been responsible for his wife's death "never even crossed my mind."

Caldwell said he and Blake did not discuss the killing: "We look at the sky, we watch the birds, we don't talk about it."

Although Blake said he entered the restaurant to retrieve his gun, Joe Restivo, a co-owner of the restaurant Vitello's, told CNN Blake appeared to have retrieved nothing from the restaurant, but that he came in, drank two glasses of water and left. Restivo said Blake appeared flustered.

The story also swirled controversy last year because Blake's attorney went on the offensive, raising questions about Bakley's past, releasing recordings of her phone conversations to the news media and detailing her interest in celebrities.

Braun said the couple had a troubled relationship and that Blake had only married Bakley because she became pregnant with his daughter. Still, Braun dismissed the suggestion that Blake was responsible for the crime.

"The fact that someone might have a marginal motive to get rid of someone doesn't mean they killed them," Braun said last year.

At the time, the attorney for Bakley, Goldstein, criticized such tactics.

"This was the mother of his child and the first thing he did was put himself out there and trashed her," Goldstein said. "I think it's a disgusting thing to do."

Goldstein also criticized Blake's account of the events surrounding the killing as not credible. "It doesn't make sense," he said. "It's rather preposterous to me."




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