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Bakely’s Family Files Suit Vs. Blake

April 30, 2002

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LOS ANGELES (AP) _ With time running out, the heirs of Bonny Lee Bakely filed a civil lawsuit against Robert Blake, reiterating charges that the actor and a bodyguard conspired to kill her and that Blake shot her to death.

``On or about May 4, 2001, defendant Robert Blake murdered his wife by shooting her with a gun while she was sitting in his vehicle,″ said the lawsuit, which cited the criminal complaint filed earlier this month against Blake and bodyguard Earle Caldwell.

Blake has pleaded innocent to charges of murder and conspiracy. Caldwell pleaded innocent to conspiracy and was freed on $1 million bail posted by Blake.

The wrongful death lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages, was filed by the administrator of Bakley’s estate on behalf of her heirs.

The heirs include Rose Lenore Sophie Blake, the actor’s nearly 2-year-old daughter by Bakley, a girl named Jeri Lee Lewis and two adult children, Glenn Paul Gawron and Holly Lee Gawron.

Blake’s attorney, Harland Braun, said the suit was filed Monday because the heirs had a deadline of May 6.

``Now the adult children have an economic motive in the case. It gives them an advantage if there’s a conviction,″ he said.

Loyola University law professor Laurie Levenson said the lawsuit damages the credibility of the adult children if they were to be called as witnesses for the prosecution.

``The downside is adverse publicity,″ she said. ``It looks like the family is greedy. She went after Blake for the money and they continue to do so.″

But she said such suits are ``pretty standard″ in a case involving a wealthy defendant. In the O.J. Simpson case, the families won a civil damage suit after Simpson was acquitted on criminal charges, but most of the $33.5 million judgment was never paid.

``The question for the family is will there be any money left?″ said Levenson. ``It’s very expensive being a defendant in a high profile case.″

Bakley, 44, was shot as she sat in Blake’s car near a restaurant where the two had dined. Blake, 68, has claimed she was shot while he was returning to the restaurant to retrieve a gun he carried but had left behind.

Forensic records in the criminal case viewed by The Associated Press on Monday showed that Blake had gunshot residue on his clothing and hands the night of the killing. But the reports note that he could have picked up the residue from another gun in his possession or from ``environmental factors.″

The gun that killed Bakley, a vintage World War II model, was found in a landfill after investigators traced the contents of a Dumpster that had been on property next to where Bakley was killed, an official report said. Police had indicated at the time of Blake’s arrest that it was found in the trash bin itself.

Photographs submitted with forensic reports also show that contrary to a previous newspaper report, the serial number of the Walther handgun had not been erased and was clearly visible.

Police also found a plastic bag with bloodstained plastic gloves in it. DNA tests showed the blood had the same genetic markers as Bakley’s blood, according to the records.

Braun suggested the gloves could have been discarded by paramedics.

Blake remains in jail without bail. His lawyer said he would ask a judge Wednesday to release his client on $1 million bail plus an agreement for electronic monitoring.

``He’s not a flight risk,″ said Braun. ``The only danger is that news helicopters might crash over him while following his car.″