Blake's former bodyguard tells of stranger

Man seen near home in months before shooting

May 13, 2001|By LOS ANGELES TIMES

LOS ANGELES - The first time he saw a mysterious man with a blond crew cut near the home of Robert Blake, the actor's bodyguard didn't give it much thought.

Earle Caldwell said he told police Thursday that a man in his 20s first showed up outside Blake's home about two months ago. Often, the man would sit in a black pickup truck and stare at the property. Blake, who played a police officer in the 1970s TV drama "Baretta," saw him as such a threat that he had the couple's infant daughter stay with relatives about 20 miles away.

"I was the first to see the guy," Caldwell said. "I named him `Buzz Cut.'"

Blake's wife, Bonny Lee Bakley, was fatally shot May 4 as she sat in the couple's car a block away from the restaurant where they had dined.

Caldwell said that a week before Bakley was killed, Blake told him to leave town. Bakley, Blake had said, wanted him fired. Caldwell was in Northern California when the shooting occurred.

Caldwell said he told all he knew about the stranger and Blake and Bakley's relationship to Los Angeles police.

He told them the stranger once drove up outside Blake's home in the night, turned off his lights and watched the property, he said. The man smirked as Blake approached with a flashlight, Caldwell said.

He said the stranger, thin and about 5-foot-8, showed up repeatedly for a month. Caldwell said he and Blake chased the man through the neighborhood.

Interviewed Friday at the office of Blake's defense attorney, Caldwell said he was closer to the actor and Bakley than anyone and described the couple as happy and trying to work things out.

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