Bonnie Lee Bakley was a con artist, aspiring singer, and actress whose sole claim to fame was her many relationships with celebrities. She was also notorious for using lonely heart schemes, deception, and sex to defraud unsuspecting men of their money.
She had an unquenchable thirst for the spotlight and couldn’t imagine a life in which she didn’t end up as some kind of famous person even though she had no discernible talent. She quickly figured out that the easiest and surest way for her to get what she craved was to attach herself to a celebrity romantically and have children for him so they would be inexorably linked for the rest of their lives. Bonnie spent her life striving towards that.
Who Is Bonnie Lee Bakley?
Bonnie was born on June 7, 1956, in Morristown, New Jersey to Marjorie and Edward Bakley. She has three siblings: Margerry, Joe, and a half-brother named Peter. She was mostly raised by her grandmother because her parents were away most of the time trying to make a living.
She grew up poor and was sexually abused by her father, both of which contributed to her strong obsession with finding stardom and wealth somewhere far away from home. This burning desire led her to drop out of school when she was 16 to pursue a career in acting and modeling in New York City. While there, Bonnie Lee Bakley met an immigrant called Evangelos Paulaski, who was on the verge of being deported and had to get married to remain in the States. Not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, Bonnie agreed to become his wife for payment. However, shortly after they were wedded and the money paid, she ended the marriage and he was deported.
When Bonnie turned 21, she married Paul Gawron, her first cousin. They had two children together named Glenn and Holly. Although this would turn out to be the longest of all her ten marriages, the union came to an end in 1982.
Although Bonnie initially tried to find success by taking on modeling jobs and scoring roles as an extra in a couple of movies, it soon became clear that there was no chance of her becoming a star so she switched her methods. She started a mail-order business, sending naked pictures of herself and other women to men who were willing to pay for them.
She ran other money-making sex schemes like placing ads saying she was seeking a male companion and then swindling the men that responded. She was also involved in credit card fraud. Her schemes were so successful that she was able to purchase several properties in Memphis and Los Angeles.
With money secured, Bonnie Lee Bakley set her eyes on landing a celebrity partner. She began stalking several of them including the singer Jerry Lee Lewis whom she eventually dated. She had a daughter named Jerri Lee while they were together, however a DNA test revealed she wasn’t the singer’s child.
She went on to have other affairs with celebrities such as Dean Martin, Gary Busy, Frankie Valli, and Christian Brando, whom she began writing and sending photos to when he was serving time for voluntary manslaughter. They got together after he was released and Bonnie had a daughter she claimed was his named Christian Shannon Brando, although the child was eventually proven to belong to Robert Blake – whom she was also dating at the time – and her name was changed to Rose Lenore Sophia Blake.
As the story goes, Bonnie met the actor Robert Blake in a jazz club in 1999. The two began seeing each other and after the birth and eventual confirmation of the paternity of their daughter, they decided to get married. However, their union did not come without conditions one of which was a signed custody contract that ensured Bonnie could only pay a supervised visit to their daughter and get written permission before her friends or family could come to Blake’s house.
Bonnie Lee Bakley and Blake exchanged vows in November 2000. The couple lived on the same property, but never in the same house. Their marriage was not an open or honest one and Blake distrusted her enough to hire a private investigator to follow her. It didn’t help that she continued her many schemes even though she was now married.
How Did She Die?
On May 4, 2001 – what seemed a normal day – Blake took his wife Bonnie out to dinner at their favorite Italian restaurant, Corelli’s on Tujunga Avenue, Studio City. As they left to go home, Blake remembered he had forgotten his gun at the table and ran back in to get in while Bonnie waited in the car. He returned to find that she had been shot twice in the head and shoulders and died on the spot.
Initially, Blake was charged with her murder, but the jury ruled to acquit him. However, a civil trial found him guilty of wrongful death and ordered him to pay $30 million to Bonnie’s family. On appeal, the verdict was upheld, but the penalty was caught in half.