updated 11/4/2005 10:31:46 AM ET 2005-11-04T15:31:46

Prosecutors say Robert Blake was bent on getting rid of his wife at any cost. Defense lawyers say the actor wanted to stay married and raise his daughter in a stable environment.

Those are the conflicting portrayals of the 72-year-old former “Baretta” star in the days leading up to the death of Bonny Lee Bakley that jurors must weigh when deliberations begin Friday in Blake’s civil trial.

The jury must decide whether Blake should be found liable for Bakley’s death and award damages to her four children.

Prosecutor Eric Dubin said in closing arguments Thursday that Blake was responsible for the death of Bakley, 44, who was shot in the actor’s car in May 2001 outside a restaurant where they had just dined.

Acquitted in criminal trial
Blake, who married Bakley in November 2000 after tests showed he was the father of her baby, Rosie, was acquitted of murder in March after a criminal trial.

Bakley’s children then filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Blake and Blake’s former handyman, Earle Caldwell.

Dubin said that in an eight-month span before Bakley died, Blake tried to distance himself from her and then attempted to hire two former Hollywood stuntmen to kill her.

Despite a background that included a mail-order business that conned men out of money by selling nude photos, Bakley didn’t deserve to die, he said.

Defense attorney Peter Ezzell countered in his closing argument that there was not enough evidence connecting Blake to his wife’s killing.

Blake has repeatedly denied killing his wife. He claims he left Bakley in the car to go back inside the restaurant to retrieve a handgun he carried for protection but accidentally left in their booth, then found her shot when he went back out to the car. There was no testimony that anyone saw Blake return to the restaurant.

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