First Witness Testifies in Blake Trial

Times Staff Writers

Robert Blake cried, but shed no tears, when he sought help for his dying wife, a film director testified today, as the prosecution's first witness took the stand in the actor's murder trial.

Blake, 71, is charged with fatally shooting his 44-year-old wife, Bonny Lee Bakley, as she sat alone in his car near an Italian restaurant in Studio City, where they had just dined. If convicted, he faces life imprisonment without parole.

Sean Stanek, the director, lived across the street from where Blake's car was parked. When Blake discovered his wife with the gunshot wound, he ran across the street, banging on Stanek's front door, seeking help.

"I heard someone screaming for help," Stanek testified. "I said Robert Blake? And then Blake replied, 'You've got to help me, my wife is bleeding.' ... He was wide-eyed, pale, pupils looked dilated."

Staneck testifed that the award-winning actor was sobbing.

"Did you see any tears," Los Angeles County Deputy Dist. Atty. Shellie L. Samuels asked.

"I looked and there weren't any tears," Stanek said. "I don't know, people cry in different ways."

Samuels was trying to establish that Blake behaved oddly and didn't come to the aid of his injured wife.

In his cross-examination, defense attorney M. Gerald Schwartzbach laid the foundation for a point he made during his almost four-hour opening statement that stretched over two days. Blake was not a medical doctor and he did his best to get his wife prompt medical attention, Schwartzbach has argued.

On Monday, Samuels led jurors through an extensive list of witnesses she said would testify to Blake's contempt for his wife and his attempts to get rid of her. Police allege that when Blake couldn't persuade two aging Hollywood stuntmen to kill Bakley for him, he pulled the trigger himself.

In his opening, Schwartzbach argued there was physical evidence linking Blake to the shooting.

Blake has pleaded not guilty to murder and soliciting murder with a special circumstance of lying in wait. He has also been sued by Bakley's four children, who claim he caused her death.

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Darlene E. Schempp's eighth-floor courtroom was filled to capacity for the start of the celebrity trial, which could last four months. Media representatives took most of the seats. Bakley's adult daughter, Holly Gawron, sat in the rear of the courtroom.

Blake, best known for the television series "Baretta" is charged with the May 4, 2001, murder of Bakley. Blake told investigators they had just dined when he realized he had left a gun, which he carried for protection, in the restaurant. He said he had left Bakley in his car.

When he returned, he found her bleeding. The murder weapon was found in a trash bin next to where the car was parked.

According to prosecutors, the motive centers on Blake's daughter, Rosie, 4.

Samuels said when Bakley told Blake she was pregnant, he had urged her to get an abortion. But then he became obsessed with his daughter and keeping her away from her mother.

In his opening remarks, Schwartzbach immediately launched an attack on the two stuntmen - Gary "Whiz Kid" McLarty and Ronald "Duffy" Hambleton - whom he characterized as untrustworthy drug users.

The lawyer repeatedly stressed that there no physical evidence linking Blake to the gun or the shooting, even though the prosecution alleges Blake personally pulled the trigger.

Times Staff Writer Michael Muskal contributed to this story.

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