Famed Hollywood actor Robert Blake, star of 'Baretta' TV series, dead at age 89
Hollywood actor Robert Blake, most famous for his role as "Baretta" in the hit 1970s TV show but also infamously acquitted of accusations that he killed his wife, died on Thursday at the age of 89, People magazine reported.
His death was confirmed by his niece, Noreen Austin, who revealed that he passed away from heart disease while surrounded by family members at his home in Los Angeles, California.
Star actor for several decades
People reported that Blake was born in New Jersey in 1933 and began his career in the entertainment industry as a child actor at age five in the "Our Gang" series of short comedic films.
By the 1950s, now as a young adult, Blake began to make appearances in various TV shows, beginning with "The Adventures of Wild Bill Hickok" in 1952.
It wasn't until 1975, however, that Blake became a full-fledged star when he was cast in the role of Det. Tony Baretta for the hit TV series "Baretta" that aired for four seasons and for which he won an Emmy Award that same year for outstanding lead actor in a drama series.
According to Blake's IMDb page, he was credited with a total of 163 appearances as a film and TV actor between 1939 and 1997, more than half of which were while he was still a child, and the vast majority of which were westerns or war movies.
He was also credited as a writer on four TV movies and series in the 1980s, as well as an executive producer for five TV movies or series during the same decade, including his final TV series appearances as a priest in "Hell Town" in 1985.
Acquitted of criminal charge, found liable in civil trial
Any hopes of Blake for revitalizing his career after his last project in 1997 died along with his second wife, Bonny Lee Bakley, however, when she was found dead in his car outside a restaurant in Studio City in 2001, according to the Associated Press.
He was charged with her shooting death in 2002, though he always maintained his complete innocence, and was ultimately acquitted of the murder charge by a jury.
That jury may have doubted his guilt in Bakley's death after it was revealed that she was a con artist who used aliases and a fake mail-order business to solicit money from men in exchange for nude photographs.
Nonetheless, despite beating the murder rap, a civil lawsuit filed by Bakley's family eventually found him to be liable for her death and he was driven into bankruptcy by a court-ordered settlement.
Broke and alone
According to the AP, Blake married his first wife, actress Sondra Kerr, in 1961, and they had two children, Noah and Delinah, before getting divorced in 1983.
He then met Bakley in 1999, and she had a daughter named Rosie who was linked to Blake through a DNA test, which led to their brief marriage before she was murdered.
The outlet noted that the criminal and civil trials left the once-wealthy Blake broke and living off Social Security and an actor's pension, and per his niece, he spent his final years in relative seclusion "enjoying jazz music, playing his guitar, reading poetry, and watching many Hollywood Classic films."