In a twist, the source of this bombshell development is none other than Blake's media-savvy lawyer Harland Braun, who has gone into media-savvy overdrive, trying to control the spin on a forthcoming supermarket tabloid story about one of the stuntmen.
Blake was charged Monday with four counts stemming from Bakley's May 2001 shooting death near an Italian restaurant in Studio City, California, that the Blakes often visited. In previewing their case, prosecutors said the Baretta star had plotted Bakley's murder for at least two months, first trying to convince two men to do the deed, either at the restaurant or in the Arizona desert.
In the National Enquirer to hit stands Thursday, Cole McLarty, son of stuntman Gary McLarty, whose film credits range from The Wild Bunch to the ill-fated Twilight Zone: The Movie, vows his father "will be a witness at the [Blake] trial and...will tell the truth about what happened."
According to the Associated Press, the second would-be hitman prosecutors spoke of is Ronald "Duffy" Hambleton. Like Gary McLarty, Hambleton is a stuntman who worked on Baretta, the wire service says.
According to Cole McLarty what happened was that Robert Blake, who worked with Gary McLarty on Baretta, asked to meet with the elder McLarty at a restaurant a few months before the Bakley slaying.
"Blake told my dad he didn't like Bonny, didn't approve of her lifestyle and wanted her out of the way," Cole McLarty says in the Enquirer. "My dad thought, This guy's totally flipped! My dad was so disgusted he walked out of the restaurant."
Cole McLarty tells the tab Blake offered his father "a good amount of money" to do the hit, although he doesn't claim to know the specific amount.
"The night my dad learned that Bonny was shot, he knew right away that Blake was behind it," Cole McLarty says in the interview.
Cole McLarty says his father's house has been searched and that he has met with the chief detective on the murder investigation.
According to the AP, Blake and Hambleton made contact last year when Hambleton asked the actor to make an action movie.
In an interview today with the Associated Press, Braun confirmed Gary McLarty is expected to be a key prosecution witness. (He also spoke of a second Baretta stuntman but did not name Hambleton specifically.)
Already Braun is apparently laying the groundwork for an attempt to discredit such a witness.
"The problem with these witnesses is if this is true, why didn't they call the police?" Braun asked the wire service. "Often these kinds of witnesses have some problem in their history or they want to jump on a big case to be in the spotlight."
Braun is familiar with Gary McLarty. Braun was a defense attorney in the Twilight Zone trial that resulted when actor Vic Morrow and two child actors were killed during a botched helicopter sequence in 1982. According to the AP, McLarty, a stunt coordinator on the film, was in the chopper that got blown out of the sky by explosives and ended up decapitating Morrow and the children.
Braun says prosecutors will also claim Blake sought out one other as yet unidentified stuntman to kill Bakley.
Blake, arrested last Thursday, is being held without bail at the Los Angeles County Jail. His next scheduled court appearance is May 1.
Also behind bars, in lieu of $1 million bail, is Earle Caldwall, the 46-year-old Blake bodyguard accused of helping Blake assemble a murder kit consisting of shovels, a crowbar and Draino, among other items. Caldwall is charged with conspiracy to commit murder.
On Monday, Blake and Caldwall both pleaded innocent to all charges facing them.
While prosecutors allege Blake wanted Bakley dead because he felt trapped by their November 2000 marriage, Braun has insisted "the real killer is still out there."