I can’t believe I almost missed this one! On May 4, 2001, actor Robert Blake takes his wife, Bonnie Lee Bakley, to dinner at Vitello's Italian Restaurant on Tujunga Ave. in Studio City, CA. Afterward, Bakley is killed by a gunshot to the head while sitting in the car, which is parked on a side street, around the corner from the restaurant. Blake claims that he returned to the restaurant to collect a gun which he had left there, and was not present when the shooting occurred. The gun that Blake claimed he had left in the restaurant was later determined not to have fired the shots that killed Bakley. That’s has to be the strangest alibi ever, right?
At 16, Bakley is a high school drop out. She goes to NYC to pursue a career in modeling and acting at the Barbizon School of Modeling - my mom went to Barbizon when I was a kid! In an effort to support herself, Bakley begins a mail-order business sending nude photos of women, including herself, to men. She also runs "lonely hearts" ads in magazines advertising for a "male companion." After communicating with the men who answer her ads, she then asks them for money for rent or travel expenses. Bakley's business and scams eventually afford her enough money to buy several houses in Memphis and a house outside L.A. Her checkered past leads many to blame the victim.
Bonnie Lee Bakley has a history of pursuing celebrities. Her friends and relatives describe her as "celebrity-obsessed." Tapes of Bakley's phone conversations reveal that she was starstruck and determined to marry someone famous. She once says, ”Being around celebrities makes you feel better than other people.” In 1990, she moves to Memphis and begins pursuing singer Jerry Lee Lewis. Bakley eventually meets Lewis and becomes close friends with Lewis' sister. In 1993, Bakley claims that the daughter she gave birth to, Jeri Lee, was Lewis' child. However, DNA tests later disprove her claim. After Jeri Lee's birth, Bakley decides to relocate to Cali. She leaves Jeri Lee with her ex-husband to raise, but continues to financially support the child.
While in California, Bakley pursues other celebrities, including Dean Martin, Frankie Valli (Bakley claims they dated when she was a teenager. Valli denies the claim), and Gary Busey. In 1991, Bakley becomes interested in Christian Brando. Christian, the eldest son of Academy Award-winning actor Marlon Brando becomes a media fixture when he is tried for the murder of his half sister's boyfriend, Dag Drollet. Brando pleads guilty to the lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter and is sentenced to ten years in prison. While he is in prison, Bakley begins writing him and sending photos. After his release in 1996, Brando and Bakley begin a romantic relationship. In 1999, Bakley discovers she was pregnant and initially thinks that Brando is the child's father. In June 2000, she gives birth to her fourth child, a daughter she names Christian Shannon Brando.
While dating Brando, Bakley is also dating Robert Blake whom she meets at a jazz club in 1999. After the birth of daughter, Bakley informs Blake that she is unsure of the child's paternity and that he might be the father of the child. Blake insists on a paternity test which later determines that Blake - not Brando - is the father. After paternity is established, the child's name is legally changed to Rose Lenore Sophia Blake. Blake agrees to marry Bakley under the condition that she sign a temporary custody agreement. Under the agreement, Bakley agrees to monitor visits with Rose and to get written permission for her friends and family to visit Blake's property. The agreement also stipulated that if either spouse decides to end the marriage, the other spouse will retain custody of Rose. Bakley's attorney advise her not to sign the document because he thinks the agreement is “lopsided.”Eager to marry Blake, she ignores her attorney's advice and signs the agreement. Bakley and Blake are married in November 2000. Although married, the couple never live together. Bakley and Rose live in a small guest house beside Blake's house in Studio City of the San Fernando Valley. The relationship is fucking rocky to say the least; Blake is distrustful of Bakley and hires a private investigator to find more information about her. Blake finds out that Bakley has continued to operate her "lonely hearts" ad scam while they are marriage.
Blake is found NOT guilty of the murder of Bonnie Lee Bakley, and of one of the two counts of soliciting a former stuntman to murder her. The other count of solicitation is dropped after it is revealed that the jury is deadlocked 11-1 in favor of acquittal. L.A. District Attorney comments on this ruling, calling Blake a "miserable human being" and the jurors "incredibly stupid.”
On November 18, 2005, Blake is found liable for the wrongful death of his wife in a civil trial. He is ordered to pay $30 million to Bakley’s family.
"Victim blaming occurs when the victim of a crime or any wrongful act is held entirely or partially at fault for the harm that befell them. The study of victimology seeks to mitigate the perception of victims as responsible. There is a greater tendency to blame victims of rape than victims of robbery if victims and perpetrators know each other."