Blake lawyer identifies police witnesses

April 24, 2002 at 6:36 PM
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LOS ANGELES, April 24 (UPI) -- Two veteran Hollywood stuntmen who worked with Robert Blake on the "Baretta" TV series claim the actor tried to hire them to kill his wife, according to Blake's lawyer.

Harland Braun identified Gary McLarty and Ronald "Duffy" Hambleton as the two witnesses who police have said will testify that Blake solicited them to murder his wife, Bonny Lee Bakley.

"They made comments that he thought were jokes," said Braun in an interview with CNN. "Now they're attributing their comments to him."

McLarty was stunt coordinator on a segment of "Twilight Zone -- The Movie" when actor Vic Morrow and two child actors were killed in a helicopter accident while filming a scene in 1982. Braun successfully defended director John Landis in a 1987 manslaughter trial arising out of the tragedy.

McLarty -- who was in the helicopter -- was a witness at the trial.

Braun said that he has known for months that McLarty and Hambleton were telling investigators that Blake had solicited them to commit murder. However, he questioned their value as prosecution witnesses, wondering aloud why McLarty and Hambleton didn't go to the police right away if they were solicited.

The revelation is the latest in a series of items potentially damaging to his client that Braun has made public.

He has repeatedly acknowledged that Blake had a motive to kill Bakley because he was miserable in his marriage to her. Less than one week after Bakley was shot to death on May 4, 2001, Braun turned over trunks and boxes full of Bakley's personal effects to investigators.

At the same time, Braun has frequently made disparaging comments about Bakley, portraying her as a gold-digger intent on marrying a celebrity because she could not achieve fame on her own.

Through it all, Braun has said the Blake's defense is simple: "He says he didn't do it."

Blake and his bodyguard-chauffer, Earle Caldwell, pleaded not guilty on Monday in connection with Bakley's murder.

Blake is charged with one count of murder with special circumstances of lying in wait, two counts of solicitation to commit murder and one count of conspiracy to commit murder. Caldwell is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit murder.

The special circumstances allegation could make Blake eligible for capital punishment.

Blake's next court appearance is scheduled for May 1, when a date will likely be set for a preliminary hearing.

McLarty's resume as a stuntman also includes "Lethal Weapon 4," "Batman & Robin," "Waterworld," "Clear and Present Danger," "Jurassic Park, "The Terminator" and "Animal House."

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