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People Magazine Investigates: Did a Former Child Star Murder His Wife?

People logo People 5/8/2021 Christine Pelisek
Bonnie Lee Bakley holding a baby posing for the camera: Bob Mahoney/Zuma Bonny Lee Bakley and Rose © Provided by People Bob Mahoney/Zuma Bonny Lee Bakley and Rose

On the evening of May 4, 2001, television star Robert Blake, 67, had dinner with his second wife Bonny Lee Bakley, at an Italian restaurant near their home in Studio City, Calif.

It would be Bakley's last night alive: While sitting in Blake's car after dinner, she was shot twice.

Blake, a former child star who later won critical acclaim appearing in the 1967 Oscar-nominated film In Cold Blood, later told authorities they'd left the restaurant together, but that he'd gone back into the restaurant to retrieve a gun that had fallen out of his clothing.

Blake, who also starred in the 1970s TV series Baretta, said he carried the 38-caliber revolver because Bakely feared for her life. Police determined that gun was not the murder weapon.

The investigation into the case is explored on the upcoming People Magazine Investigates: The Price of Fame, airing Monday at 10 ET/9 CT on Investigation Discovery and streaming on discovery+. (An exclusive clip is shown below.)

A neighbor, who was on the scene, said Blake was frantic, pacing up and down the street, occasionally vomiting, then falling to the pavement. "The cops were treating him with kid gloves," the neighbor said. "For most of the time paramedics were working on [Bakley]; he was just sitting on the curb. An officer had his arm around him, just consoling him."

Bonnie Lee Bakley holding a baby posing for the camera: Bonny Lee Bakley and Rose © Bob Mahoney/Zuma Bonny Lee Bakley and Rose

RELATED: Robert Blake's Daughter Speaks For First Time About 'Complicated' Childhood and Becoming an Actress

Robert Blake wearing a suit and tie: Nick Ut/AP © Provided by People Nick Ut/AP

The following morning, investigators found an unregistered 9mm Walther P-38, in a Dumpster about 10 feet from Blake's car. The 9mm was a unique handgun used by the Nazis during World War II.

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Investigators soon determined that the one bullet left in chamber matched the two bullet casings found at the scene. 

Was this the gun used in the slaying of Bakley? 

RELATED: Robert Blake's Lawyer Blasts New Claims by Defense Team P.I. that Baretta Actor Hired Hitman to Kill His Wife

Investigators immediately focused on Blake as the killer. But was he? 

Bakley's death would become one of Hollywood's most notorious cases, with the former acting legend at its center.

People Magazine Investigates: The Price of Fame, airs Monday at 10 ET/9 CT on Investigation Discovery and streaming on discovery+.

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