Robert Blake died on Thursday in Los Angeles. He was 89.
The “Baretta” star died from heart disease, according to a statement released by his niece, Noreen Austin.
“He died at home with family around him peacefully, long-term heart issues,” Austin told Fox News Digital. “He spent the last few years listening to jazz music and playing his guitar and watching classic movies.”
Once hailed as among the finest actors of his generation, Blake became better known as the defendant in a real-life murder story more bizarre than any in which he acted. Blake went from acclaim for his acting to notoriety when he was tried and acquitted in the killing of his wife, Bonny Lee Bakley, who died outside a Studio City restaurant on May 4, 2001.
Blake was arrested and charged with one count of murder with special circumstances, two counts of solicitation of murder and one count of conspiracy to commit murder nearly one year after Bakley was killed outside of Vitello’s Italian Restaurant. He pled not guilty.
In a 2002 interview with the Associated Press while he was jailed awaiting trial, he bemoaned the change in his status with his fans nationwide: “It hurt because America is the only family I had.”
After nearly one year behind bars, Blake was released from jail after posting $1.5 million bail and placed under house arrest. His criminal trial began in December 2004.
Blake was adamant that he had not killed his wife, and a jury found Blake not guilty of murder in March 2005.
Months after he was acquitted, a civil jury found him liable for her death and ordered Blake to pay Bakley’s family $30 million for her wrongful death, a judgment that sent him into bankruptcy.
Blake found fame at a young age as a child actor in the “Our Gang” comedies, better known as “The Little Rascals.” He appeared in dozens of the “Red Ryder” western films and had roles on “The Big Noise,” “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre” and “The Black Rose.”
As an adult, he was praised for his portrayal of real-life murderer Perry Smith in the movie of Truman Capote’s “In Cold Blood.”
In 1975 to 1978, he starred in the TV cop series “Baretta.”
Baretta, an unconventional detective, used the catchphrase, “Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time.”
Rest in Peace Mr. Blake .
I LOVED him & those other mischievous kids on “Our Gang”/”The Little Rascals”!
They ruined Robert Blake’s reputation. Rest in Peace Robert.
He got away with murder. Kinda made me sad, Tony. Fred’s sad about it too.
Loved Baretta! Rest peacefully, Mr. Blake.