Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Family Affair

We should all be aware of the history we make, for it is our children who will tell it.

Cole McLarty took the stand for the defense today. Cole is the 31-year-old son of Gary McLarty, one of two stuntmen who say Robert Blake solicited them to murder his wife.

Cole, with dark hair and small dark eyes, was the image of his broad-shouldered father. Cole, like his father, is a stuntman. He took his seat at the witness stand and did not look around the courtroom. His voice was small, almost like a child’s, when he began to tell the court about his father.

Since Cole was 11 years old his father had taken cocaine. He described his father as being erratic and having a short temper while under the influence. He said that Gary McLarty took drugs whenever he had money, which was pretty much all the time.

In the 1980’s Gary McLarty had accused Cole’s mother, Karen, of having his motorcycle bugged in order to track his whereabouts. Gary still believes this to this day.

In March 2001, Gary McLarty told his son that Robert Blake had someone stalking him. Blake would pay $10,000 to have someone blacken this person’s eyes. “He (my father) would drop me off and I would punch this person,” Cole said. His father never said anything about Blake wanting someone to murder his wife.

In September, 2004, Gary McLarty, in a drug-induced state, crawled on his belly from his house to his son’s front door. Cole said that he found Gary talking to Hal Needham, who was the son of the man who had previously owned Cole’s house. Only Needham wasn’t there.

Cole’s description of his father echoed Gary McLarty’s own testimony for the prosecution on February 7 and 8, 2005.

On the witness stand, Gary McLarty looked distant and withdrawn. He had, at first, seemed not to focus. He couldn’t recall much about his work as a stuntman and, specifically, his work with Robert Blake.

Even more so, Gary McLarty seemed to have lost his sense of time.

He said he didn’t know how long before Bakley’s murder he met with Robert Blake. Then he said it was three or four months before.

He said it was four or five years ago that he had killed someone in self defense. Later he said it was 10 years ago. In reality, that incident occurred in 1991.

He thought he had gone to the police four or five days after the murder, but he said that someone told him it was eight to 10 days.

“In March 2001,” defense attorney Schwartzbach asked, “do you recall meeting with Robert Blake?”

Gary McLarty replied, “I don’t recall the day.”

“Do you remember the month?”

“No.”

“The year?”

After hesitating, McLarty replied, “2001?”

“Was it at the beginning of 2001 or the end?” Schwartzbach continued.

“I don’t remember that,” McLarty said.

On direct, McLarty said he had no physical or mental injuries resulting from his stunt work. On cross, he admitted that he broke his hip. It turned out that on a motorcycle accident, he had broken both legs and severed his arm which had to be reattached, and that he has lost partial feeling in it; and he rolled a jeep on the set of the TV show, “Cade’s County” in the 1980’s and was in a coma for several days with a head injury.

He had also suffered a heart attack a few weeks before he met with Blake in March 2001. It was unclear whether drugs had contributed to the heart attack, but McLarty admitted to using a large amount of cocaine shortly before.

Gary McLarty admitted to having seen alien space ships and that he believed that his cell phone, his house, and his car were bugged. He admitted that he feared Detective Ito and that the police were tunneling under his house. His family, he believed, was conspiring against him.


On cross examination, Cole McLarty was forced to admit that he had sold the story of his father’s addiction to the National Enquirer. He offered no explanation for doing it though he sounded remorseful.

He also admitted to knowing his father was under the influence while he was doing stunt work and that he wasn’t concerned for his safety or the safety of others when Gary was on cocaine. And although Cole talked of harsh reality, Samuels’ prodding could not get him to recant his testimony.

The defense then called Karen McLarty, wife of Gary and mother of Cole, to corroborate Cole’s story. Karen, too, worked in the film industry as a stuntwoman. She said she was furious with Gary when Cole told her that his father wanted him to punch out a stalker for Robert Blake.

On cross, Samuels fired the same attack on Karen as she had on Cole, trying to make her admit that Gary wasn’t incoherent while taking drugs. But the court heard the same answers to the same questions, stoic answers that seemed to frustrate Samuels. Reliable, true answers that couldn’t be shaken. Without a change of tone, Karen McLarty put an end to the accusations. “I don’t know how to put this,” she said. “There’s a lot of people who do cocaine in Hollywood.” It was a statement of a raw fact – Hollywood was not all glamour and there was no pretending it was.

In the end there was nothing credible left to the solicitation charge. And the sad, solemn testimony of a family left the courtroom silent.

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