Robert Blake, Star of ‘Baretta’ and ‘Lost Highway’ Who Was Acquitted in 2005 Murder Trial, Dies at 89

The Emmy winner was charged with killing his wife after she was shot to death outside a Studio City restaurant

robert blake
Robert Blake in 2003 (Getty Images)

Actor Robert Blake, born Michael James Gubitosi, died Thursday at the age of 89 in Los Angeles from heart disease.  

Blake’s 60-year-plus career in Hollywood included a gig in “Our Gang” as a child, and a role in “The Treasure of Sierra Madre” in 1948 all the way through David Lynch’s cult classic “Lost Highway” in 1997.  

In terms of his onscreen work, he is best known for playing convicted murderer Perry Smith in the feature film adaptation of “In Cold Blood.” The 1967 classic is based on Truman Capote’s groundbreaking nonfiction book, which is often considered the first modern true crime novel.  

His most iconic television work included four seasons playing the title role in ABC’s undercover cop action drama “Baretta,” for which he earned an Emmy for Lead Actor in a Drama Series in 1977. Blake also appeared on “The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson” as a reoccurring guest who would participate in Carson’s late-night sketches.  

However, Blake’s onscreen fortune and glory were eventually overshadowed by the death of his second wife, Bonny Lee Bakley, who was found shot to death outside Vitello’s restaurant in the Studio City neighborhood of Los Angeles. Blake was charged with her murder in 2002, but he was acquitted in a jury trial in 2005.  

While Bakley’s children sued Blake for wrongful death soon after the criminal trial, the killing remains officially unsolved. Blake later wrote his memoir, “The Life of a Rascal: What I Did for Love” which was published in 2012. He lived out his remaining years quietly in the Los Angeles area. 

His death was confirmed by his niece, Noreen Austin, as first reported by Deadline.