Robert Blake, the star of 1970s US cop show Baretta whose fame was later eclipsed by his wife’s murder, has died aged 89.
He died at his home in Los Angeles surrounded by family members.
Considered one of the best actors of his generation, he won acclaim after starring in the 1967 film adaptation of Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood and in the 1970s television series Baretta, playing an undercover police officer.
His celebrity status came crashing down after he was accused of fatally shooting his wife Bonny Lee Bakley to gain custody of their daughter.
The prosecution during the trial claimed Blake gunned down his wife of less than a year outside a Los Angeles restaurant to gain custody of their daughter, whose birth certificate names Marlon Brando’s son Christian as her father.
A paternity test showed Blake was the father.
Blake was also accused of trying to solicit others to kill Bakley.
During the trial, she was portrayed as a celebrity-obsessed career swindler who entrapped the actor into marriage by getting pregnant.
She had been married nine times when she met Blake and had supported herself by maintaining multiple identities and used magazine ads to persuade men to send her money.
Blake was acquitted in the criminal case but was later found responsible for her killing in a wrongful death lawsuit filed by Bakley’s estate.
Bakley’s children were awarded $30 million in damages, which led Blake to file for bankruptcy.
In several interviews since the trial, Blake has maintained his innocence.
He was married three times and has four children. His 22-year marriage to actress Sonora Kerr broke up in 1983.
In 2017, the actor married his old friend Pamela Hudak, but the marriage ended in 2019.
Born in Nutley, New Jersey in 1933, Blake joined his parents’ song-and-dance vaudeville act at two years old before the family moved to California.
At just eight years old, he began appearing as Mickey in the Our Gang short film series.
He transitioned from a child actor to an adult star, starring in films including Electra Glide in Blue and Tell Them Willie Boy Is Here.
He also starred as a psychopathic killer in the 1967 film In Cold Blood.
But his breakthrough came when playing unconventional detective Tony Barretta from 1975 to 1978, for which he won an Emmy.
He garnered more Emmy nominations for playing a real-life mass murderer in the 1993 film Judgement Day: The John List Story.
But he gained a reputation as a difficult actor to work with and admitted to struggles with drug addiction and alcohol earlier in his life.