Friday, May 4, 2012

Celebrity Grave: Celebrity Wife & Murder Victim Bonnie Lee Bakley 2001

 
Bonnie Lee Bakley (June 7, 1956 – May 4, 2001) was the wife of actor Robert Blake.

Early life

Bonnie Lee Bakley was born in Morristown, New Jersey[1] to arborist Edward J. Bakley and his wife, Marjorie, aka Lois Carlyon. Carlyon's last known residence was in Gilbert, PA. Bakley had three other siblings: Margery Lois Hall, Joseph, and her half-brother Peter Carlyon from her mother's second marriage. Before problems at home as a teenager led Bonnie to leave her parents' home and move in with her grandmother she lived at 6 Kossuth Street in Wharton, NJ.

She dropped out of high school at age 16 and decided to go to New York City to pursue a career in modeling and acting at the Barbizon School of Modeling. She was married at 21 to her first cousin and had two children with him.[2]

Bakley's early life is checkered by a criminal record. She was convicted in Little Rock, Arkansas for possessing false identifications. In 1989, she was convicted of drug possession in Memphis, Tennessee and later in 1995, convicted of passing bad checks.

FBI records show that in 1994, while under investigation for fraud, Bakley told agents of a con she ran on a college student, sending her then thirteen year old daughter to seduce the man.[3]

 
Celebrity obsession

Bonnie soon made a living running a "lonely hearts" scheme, sending nude pictures of herself to men with the promise of visiting them if they sent her money.

 
Bakley also had a history of pursuing celebrities. Her friends and relatives all described her as "celebrity-obsessed." She claimed to have had an affair with rock legend Jerry Lee Lewis and born his daughter in 1993, but DNA tests later disproved her claim. Lewis has denied ever having a relationship with Bakley. Tapes of Bakley's phone conversations reveal that she was starstruck and bent on marrying someone famous. "I like being around celebrities," she once said, "it makes you feel better than other people."

 
Her lonely hearts fraud, however, continued to be lucrative. She was able to marry several of her victims — swindling a number of men out of their savings and life insurance. Eventually she obtained enough money to buy two houses and several undeveloped lots in Memphis and a house outside of Los Angeles; additionally, her lonely hearts fraud funded her unsuccessful Hollywood career as a singer and actor under the stage name Lee Bonny.[4]

 
Marriage to Robert Blake

In 1999, Bonnie Lee Bakley met Robert Blake at Chuck McCann's birthday party. At the time she was seeing Christian Brando, before becoming acquainted with Blake. Blake slept with Bakley, later claiming that she had assured him that she was taking birth control pills. Friends of Bakley later said that she was, rather, taking fertility pills at the time. She was soon pregnant with what would be her fourth child.

 
Initially, Bakley believed that Christian Brando was the father, but later told Blake she wasn't sure, and that it might have been his. When a DNA test determined that it was Blake, not Brando, that was the father of Bakley's youngest child, Blake agreed to marry her. It was his second marriage, and her tenth. Although they were married, Bakley lived in a small guest house beside her husband's house in the Studio City area of the San Fernando Valley. It is rumored that Blake only married her to eventually get custody of their child, whom Blake wanted his childless daughter to raise.

 
On May 4, 2001 Blake took Bakley to an Italian dinner at Vitello's Restaurant on Tujunga Avenue in Studio City. Afterward, Bakley was killed by a gunshot to the head while sitting in the car, which was parked on a side street around the corner from the restaurant. Blake claimed that he had returned to the restaurant to collect a gun which he had left there, and was not present when the shooting occurred. That gun had not fired the fatal shots.

 
She was buried at Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills Memorial Park.

 
Marriages, notable relationships, and children

1) Husband: Evangelos Paulakis (divorced)
2) Husband: Paul Gawron (cousin, divorced; 1977-1982)
Son: Glenn Paul Gawron (with Paul)
Daughter: Holly Lee Gawron (born 1981, with Paul)
3) Husband: Robert Moon (divorced; 1984-1987)
4) Husband: DeMart C. Besly (annulled; 1988)
5) Husband: Joseph Brooksher (annulled; 1992 [1 day marriage])
6) Husband: William Webber (annulled; 1993 [2 day marriage])
Daughter: Jeri Lee Lewis (born 28 July 1993, father unknown)
7) Husband: E. Robert Telufson (annulled; 19?? [married for 6 weeks])
8) Husband: Glynn H. Wolfe (annulled; 19??)
9) Husband: John Ray (divorced; 1996-1998)
Boyfriend: Christian Brando
10) Husband: Robert Blake (married; 2000 - her death; 2001)
Daughter: Christian Shannon Brando (renamed Rose Lenore Sophia Blake, born 2 June 2000)
Note that Bakley's claim to have been Glynn Wolfe's 26th wife contradicts the records of Wolfe's marriages (some of which may be apocryphal); Wolfe's own claim, as given by his Guinness Book of World Records listing, holds that his 26th wife was Guadalupe Chavez.

 
Criminal and civil suits

On March 16, 2005, Blake was 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 was dropped after it was revealed that the jury was deadlocked 11-1 in favor of an acquittal. Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley, commenting on this ruling, called Blake a "miserable human being" and the jurors "incredibly stupid."

Blake's defense team and members of the jury responded that the prosecution had failed to prove its case. During the trial, the defense alleged that Bakley was a drug addict who used her daughter for prostitution.[5]

On November 18 2005, Blake was found liable for the wrongful death of his wife in a civil trial. Bakley's four children sued him, asserting he was responsible for their mother's death. The jury ordered him to pay $30 million. On April 26, 2008, an appeals court upheld the civil case verdict, but cut Blake's penalty assessment in half. [6]

 
 
References

1.^ "Blake Transferred To County Jail As He Awaits Murder Charges", WMAQ-TV, April 19, 2002. Accessed October 15, 2007. "The Morristown, N.J., native had a criminal record for a 1989 drug-related arrest in Tennessee, where she associated herself with singer Jerry Lee Lewis and his sister."
2.^ Miles Corwin (2003). Homicide Special.
3.^ Part II: Blake's Real-Life Drama, 48 Hours Speaks Exclusively With Bakley's Daughter - CBS News
4.^ Miles Corwin (2003). Homicide Special.
5.^ Blake Team Blames Brando Son, Defense Lawyers Accuse Christian Brando Of Killing Blake's Wife - CBS News
6.^ CNN.com - Actor Blake liable in wife's death - Nov 18, 2005

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