Monday, October 31, 2005

The State's Conspiracy - Part I

“You don’t really believe that police conspiracy theory, do you?” – Eric Dubin, just before he mistakenly played a tape in which Detective Ronald Ito is heard intimidating a witness

In 2004, Brian Allan Fiebelkorn realized he had vital information that could change the course of the Bakley murder investigation. Unfortunately, the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office, in particular, District Attorney Steve Cooley, didn’t want to hear him.

On October 31, 2005, Fiebelkorn testified at the Blake civil trial. He claimed to have identified the murder weapon as belonging to a transient, Mark Jones, and that he was able to tie Jones to both Ronald Duffy Hambleton, a key prosecution witness, and Christian Brando, the other man in Bakley’s life.

Fiebelkorn works for two men prominent in the Los Angeles Police Commission: Bert Boeckmann and Alan Skobin. Boeckmann, a former LA Police Commission member, is ex-law enforcement and is an active supporter of the LAPD. Skobin is vice president of the Police Commission. Fiebelkorn approached Skobin explaining his concern that the District Attorney’s office had incorrect information concerning Ronald “Duffy” Hambleton that would be detrimental to the LAPD’s case against Blake. Later, at a law enforcement event, Fiebelkorn approached Cooley with his information.

What Fiebelkorn told Cooley and later testified to was a story straight from a Raymond Chandler novel – even the characters involved lived in the affluent area of Laurel Canyon Boulevard, on Willow Glen Road.

In 2000-2001, Fiebelkorn had a couple of neighbors there, Jerry Lee Petty and Bill Jackson.

Jackson lived across the street from Fiebelkorn. He was “hippy-ish” according to Fiebelkorn, and neighbors referred to him as the “gardener of Willow Glen.” He had a large piece of property overgrown with trees, plants and old junk. A variety of cowbells hung from a gate leading up the Jackson’s house. The cowbells served as an alarm of sorts, clanging whenever anyone approached the house.

Petty was a retired stuntman. He lived off the income from rental properties he owned, innocuous in itself, but there was something much more sinister about Petty. Petty had a rent collector named Terrence Lee Walters, a.k.a., Travelin’ Travis. Fiebelkorn referred to Walters as Petty’s “enforcer.” He was a violent individual who drove a black pickup truck and wore his hair close cropped, military style.

Fiebelkorn testified that Petty once threatened to burn down a neighbor’s house if the neighbor’s dog didn’t leave Petty’s cat alone. The dog didn’t. A week later, someone started a suspicous fire.

Christian Brando, son of the late Marlon Brando, and Jerry Lee Petty were friends. Dianne Mattson, Brando’s “adult babysitter,” had previously testified that Brando looked up to Petty like a second father. Fiebelkorn once saw Petty and Brando together in Petty’s truck driving through his neighborhood.

In late 2000, Fiebelkorn asked Jackson if he could store his wife’s black two-tone Lincoln Mark IV in Jackson’s driveway. Jackson had a long driveway, obscured by trees and brush. Fiebelkorn gave the keys to Jackson, who said he and a transient named Mark Jones would get it running and clean it up.

Jones was a talented handyman and had an extremely high IQ. Jones was most happy when doing work around the neighborhood, and Fiebelkorn tried to keep him employed whenever he could. Fiebelkorn and his wife had “semi-adopted” Jones, stating it was their way of charity. Jones had several teeth missing, a symptom of long-term methamphetamine use, and was difficult to understand. He once told Fiebelkorn that Petty was bothered by a woman named “Lee Bond.”

Fiebelkorn was awakened one night by Jackson’s cowbells. He looked out his window and saw an older man waiting at Jackson’s gate. Fiebelkorn had seen the man many times before and thought it was Jackson’s father. The man appeared reluctant to negotiate the steps leading up to the house, and stood by the gate calling Jackson’s name. Fiebelkorn went outside to talk to him, but the man became irritated by Fiebelkorn’s small talk. The man then mentioned that he was going to talk to “Mark.” The man moved on toward Petty’s house. Fiebelkorn later identified the man to police as Duffy Hambleton. Fiebelkorn said that he saw Hambleton many times afterward, up until the time Bakley was murdered.

Ronald Duffy Hambleton was a stuntman who told police that Blake had solicited him to murder Bonny Lee Bakley. That confession came from Hambleton after his third interview with police. Lead Detective Ronald Ito, according to police transcripts, appeared to have coerced Hambleton into the confession, reminding Hambleton that he had a pending weapons charge against him. That incident, where Hambleton called police to report a robbery in progress and then turned a gun on the officers at the scene, occurred in December, 1999. The case was delayed until Hambleton testified at the Blake criminal trial in 2005, and by that time the charge had been reduced to a misdemeanor.

Dianne Mattson previously testified that she overheard a conversations between Brando, Petty, a person named “Duffy”, and others on Petty’s end when Petty told Brando that Blake was the father of Bakley’s child and that Brando had been “duped” by Bakley into believing it was his. She said Brando was enraged by this, and said that someone “ought to put a bullet in that bitch’s head.” Mattson later identified Duffy Hambleton as the Duffy on the other end of the call.

During a police interview, however, Brando denied knowing Hambleton. According to police and defense interviews, several people claimed that Brando did know a stuntman named Duffy who lived in the desert. John Haynes, a neighbor of Brando’s in Kalama, Washington, stated that Brando knew a stuntman named Duffy. Rocky Dickerson, who grew up with Brando, said he remembered an older stuntman named Duffy who had been Petty’s friend. Like Brando, Dickerson’s mentor was Petty. He recalled at least one instance where he, Duffy, Petty, and Brando were at Petty’s house when he and Brando were younger. Dickerson also said that Brando and Travelin’ Travis Walters knew each other well.

Keith Seals and Donna Sharon, friends of Hambleton, said that Hambleton bragged on several occasions that he knew many actors and stuntmen, including both Marlon and Christian Brando.

One night, Jackson had a number of people visiting. Around 10PM, Fiebelkorn heard a row coming from Jackson’s house. Among various expletives and threats, Fiebelkorn could hear someone shouting “get the gun.” Fiebelkorn went outside to break up the fight when suddenly he saw Jones running from the house followed by Jackson. In Jones’ waistband was a naked barrel of an automatic handgun.

Fiebelkorn testified that he had seen Jones with the same gun, a Walther P38, several times thereafter and described it as so dirty and rusty, it might not be able to fire. Fiebelkorn told Jones on several occasions that he would not allow Jones to bring the gun into his house. He also said he had a conversation with Jones about the gun, where Jones said that spraying the gun with WD40 would deaden the sound of the gunshot as well as wipe down fingerprints.

In February 2001, Bonny Bakley completed her parole violation and was no longer under house arrest. It was about that time that Robert Blake sighted strangers hanging around his neighborhood. He told William Jordan, a private investigator who worked for him, that he had seen suspicious men on occasion in a black Lincoln Continental and black pickup truck watching his house. He discussed full-time surveillance with Jordan, but Jordan convinced Blake that this method of protection rarely netted results to justify the cost.

Both Blake and Earle Caldwell, Blake’s handyman, told police after Bakley’s murder that they believed Bakley had a stalker. Caldwell described the man in the black pickup truck as “Buzz Cut,” referring to the man’s hair style -- short cropped, military style – the same description Fiebelkorn gave police regarding Walters. Blake had also mentioned the man in the truck to his neighbor, Kate Doehring, because he thought it might be a friend of hers. It was not. Lidia Benevides, Blake’s housekeeper, said she saw a man in a dark car parked in front of Blake’s residence on at least two occasions.

William Jay Smith also worked in Fiebelkorn’s neighborhood and was considered dangerous, particularly when he was high on methamphetamines. He, too, was a friend of Petty’s and Jackson’s. Smith approached Fiebelkorn one day in March 2001, asking if Fiebelkorn would cash a $10,000 check. Fiebelkorn refused.

A week later, Smith again approached Fiebelkorn telling him that he had been able to cash the check and asked Fiebelkorn to hold the money because Smith was afraid others would try to take it from him. Fiebelkorn again refused.

Fiebelkorn said that Smith “didn’t have two pennies to rub together” and was suspicious of where Smith obtained the money. It was later discovered that a $10,000 check was drawn on Petty’s account around the same time Smith approached Fiebelkorn.

On March 15, 2001, Jerry Lee Petty committed suicide. Smith found him at 8:30AM, after having breakfast with him earlier that morning. Petty was in his garage lying in a sleeping bag with his truck running, asphyxiated from carbon monoxide.

Fiebelkorn’s wife told him that the police were investigating the suicide, which they considered suspicious.

After Petty’s suicide, Jones became paranoid and began carrying the gun at all times. Fiebelkorn refused to let Jones in his house. The last time Fiebelkorn saw the gun was about a month and a half after Petty’s suicide – late April or early May 2001.

On May 4, 2001, Bonny Lee Bakley was shot twice by an unknown assailant while she waited for her husband outside Vitello’s restaurant. Three neighbors reported seeing a suspicious dark-colored car on a street near the murder scene, and one neighbor reported seeing someone hanging around Blake’s car shortly after Blake and Bakley entered the restaurant for dinner.

The murder weapon, a Walther P38, was found in a construction dumpster near Blake’s car. According to police photographs, it was rusty and dirty, and one round was still in the chamber. It was covered with an unidentified oily substance.

Fiebelkorn noticed another change in Jones in May 2001. Jones became despondent, remorseful. Jones never discussed what was wrong, but Fiebelkorn said that Jones could not look him in the eye.

In the early morning of May 31, 2001, Jones committed suicide in Fiebelkorn’s Lincoln Continental in a supermarket parking lot. A hose was attached from the tailpipe into the window and a sheet was draped over the car. Jones was seated in the back of the car and his torso was draped over the front seat. It has been speculated, but not testified to, that Jones was trying to get out of the car.

Fiebelkorn’s wife was especially fond of the Lincoln and the Fiebelkorns were in disbelief that Jones would have killed himself in it, given how close they were. Neighbors said they had seen Jones and others in the car many times at night on Ventura Boulevard, but thought they was out doing errands for the Fiebelkorns. The Fiebelkorns were never aware that Jones had taken the car anywhere.

Jones wasn’t the last death in a circle of people who called themselves the “Down Gang.” In August 2003, some men attacked Travelin’ Travis Walters and fatally bludgeoned him with an electric guitar in the parking lot of a Laurel Canyon country store.

And sometime after Fiebelkorn gave his statement to police, Jackson claimed someone shot at him in his driveway. Jackson attributed the attack to his involvement in the Blake case, and from that point, refused to speak to anyone about it.

In a case where the prosecution wanted a jury who could convict on circumstantial evidence, the circumstantial evidence strongly pointed to others.

The State's Conspiracy - Part II

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