Actor Robert Blake, who starred in the 1970s cop show Baretta and was later acquitted of killing his wife in a high-profile murder trial, has died at the age of 89. He died on Thursday from heart disease, his niece tells our sister site Deadline.
Blake began his Hollywood career as a child actor, playing Mickey in MGM’s Our Gang shorts, later known as the Little Rascals. The young Blake also appeared in a Laurel and Hardy film and shared a scene with Humphrey Bogart in the 1948 classic The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.
As an adult, Blake had a number of prominent film and TV credits before his breakout role as killer Perry Smith in the 1967 film version of Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood. He went on to play undercover police detective Tony Baretta on the ABC show Baretta, known for his pet cockatoo Fred. Baretta ran for four seasons, with Blake winning the Emmy for best lead actor in a drama series in 1975.
In 2001, Blake’s wife Bonny Lee Bakley was found dead in Blake’s car outside an L.A. restaurant. Blake was arrested and charged with Bakley’s murder a year later, setting off a much-publicized trial. Blake was ultimately found not guilty of murder and of solicitation of murder. An additional charge of solicitation to commit murder was dropped when the jury deadlocked. Blake was later found liable in the wrongful death of Bakley in a civil suit brought by her children.