Profile of Bonny Lee Bakley, the Murdered Wife of Actor Robert Blake

A Case of Murder With Too Many Suspects With Motives

Bonny Lee Bakley and Robert Blake
Robert Blake and Bonny Lee Bakley. Getty Images

Bonny Lee Bakley was not a good girl. She was a con artist who used sex and deception to bilk men -- many of them rich and famous -- out of their money and their children out of their inheritance. When she was shot to death in May 2001, her husband, actor Robert Blake, was charged with the crime, but there was a long list of those with a motive.

Bakley's Childhood Years

Bonny Lee Bakley was born in Morristown, New Jersey on June 7, 1956.

As a young girl, her dreams were similar to others her age, to one day become rich and famous. Perhaps her impoverished home helped to drive these fantasies. Or perhaps the desire to leave her hometown and begin her road to stardom grew deeper after she suffered through sexual abuse by her father. Whatever it was that did it, one thing was for certain, her "wants" turned into "needs" and manifested into a blind obsession.

Marriage for Profit:

Bakley, who felt ostracized as a child for being poor, grew to be an attractive teen. She decided to try modeling, and she signed on with a nearby agency. Through there she met an immigrant named Evangelos Paulakis, who was desperate to stay in the U.S. and needed to get married to do so. Bonny agreed to marry him for a price, but not long after the two shared "I do's" Bonny, with the money safely tucked away, ended the marriage and Paulakis was picked by the authorities and deported.

After high school Bonny headed to New York to begin her climb to stardom. She started calling herself Lee Bonny, managed to get various small modeling jobs,  and even worked as an extra in a few movies. But her goal of becoming a star was not happening, and she set her attention on other ways to achieve, if not stardom, the fortune that came with it.

Her focus switched from becoming a star to marrying one and regardless of where she was in life this obsession remained intact.

Bakley's Sex Scam Business:

During her mid-twenties, Bonny married her cousin Paul Gawron, a laborer who was street tough and prone to violent behavior. They had two children which Paul mainly cared for while Bonny worked toward her new endeavor, a mail-order business that focused on scamming lonely men out of money. Had Bonny not chosen such a sleazy career, her entrepreneurial spirit mixed with her ability to market, organize, and profit in a highly competitive industry could have been admirable.

Paul and Bonny had a twisted and volatile marriage. Bonny, who was busy scamming money from men, sometimes in the couple's bedroom, was satisfied to let Paul stay home and he seemed to enjoy not having to work. But by 1982 the marriage ended. Bonny's obsession to be in the inner circles of the famous mixed with the fact that she was not getting any younger motivated her decision to leave her kids in Paul's care and head to Memphis, Tennessee to the door of musical artist, Jerry Lee Lewis.

Bakley Stalks Jerry Lee Lewis:

It would be a few years and several short marriages later before Bonny made it to Lewis' door.

Her money-making sex schemes coupled with her use of stolen credit cards and identification kept her mobile, and she was able to fly to locations where Jerry Lee Lewis was performing. Bordering stalking, Bonny would often crash parties and show up at performances just to get in closer to Lewis. Finally, the two met around 1982, and a friendship developed.

Jerry Lee Lewis and Bakley remained friends until Bakley became pregnant and told everyone that the child's father was Jerry Lee Lewis and that he was leaving his wife to marry her. When the child was born, Bakley named her, Jerry Lee and put on the birth certificate, 'father undetermined.' The friendship between Lewis and Bakley ended and baby Jerry Lee was sent to live with Bonny's ex-husband and her other children. Later it was discovered that Bonny made death threats against Lewis's wife.

Bakley's "Anything Goes" Policy:

Bakley's address book filled up with names, some famous and some just rich. Names such as Robert DeNiro, Sugar Ray Leonard, and Jimmy Swaggart were found among the list. Bakley's sex business became bolder, and she advertised in the sex magazines that she was a tri-sexual, meaning she would try anything once and her preference was sadomasochism, couple's sex, and bisexuality. She swindled men out of hundreds of thousands of dollars with her "anything goes" claims.

Bakley was arrested for trying to write bad checks in the tune of $200,000 and was sentenced to report to a penal farm on weekends for three years. In Arkansas, she was arrested for carrying over 30 fake identifications and was placed on probation. When she completed her sentence in Tennessee, and her friendship with Lewis was over, she decided it was time to leave the south, and she headed to the land of fame and stardom -- Hollywood.

Bonny Lee Bakley and Robert Blake Tie the Knot

Bonny continued running her sex scams in magazines plus dating a few stars, one being Christian Brando. How she and Robert Blake met, depends on who you ask. Bonny's sister said they met at a jazz club and bonded from across the room. Blake's attorney said Robert Blake did not even know her name and they had sex in the back of a truck, never in his home. Whatever is the truth, one thing was for certain; it wasn't a match made in heaven.

Shortly after the affair began Bonny told Blake that she was pregnant. Sources say Bonny was taking fertility pills as a way to trap her star into her web.

When the baby was born, she named her, Christian Shannon Brando and listed Brando as the father although a paternity test later proved the father to be Blake.

Bonny Lee and Robert Blake married in November 2000, and Bonny moved into a guest house on the property. In May 2001, Robert Blake and Bonny went to dinner at Vitello's Italian Restaurant, where Blake was a regular customer. After dinner the two walked to their car and according to Blake he realized he left his revolver at the restaurant and left to retrieve it. When he returned to the car, he found Bonny Lee with a gunshot wound to her head, dying in the front seat. Blake ran for help, but Bonny Lee soon died.

After a year of investigations, Robert Blake was arrested and charged with the murder of Bonny Lee Bakley. On March 15, 2005, a jury of seven women and five men deliberated for more than 36 hours before returning a verdict of not guilty in the murder of his wife, Bonny Lee Bakley and not guilty on one count of soliciting someone to murder her.

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Montaldo, Charles. "Profile of Bonny Lee Bakley, the Murdered Wife of Actor Robert Blake." ThoughtCo, Nov. 1, 2016, Montaldo, Charles. (2016, November 1). Profile of Bonny Lee Bakley, the Murdered Wife of Actor Robert Blake. Retrieved from Montaldo, Charles. "Profile of Bonny Lee Bakley, the Murdered Wife of Actor Robert Blake." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 18, 2018).