She dropped out of high school at age 16 and decided to go to New York City to pursue a career in modeling and acting at the Barbizon School of Modeling. She was married at 21 to her first cousin and had two children with him.
Bakley's early life is checkered by a criminal record. She was convicted in Little Rock, Arkansas for possessing false identifications. In 1989, she was convicted of drug possession in Memphis, Tennessee and later in 1995, convicted of passing bad checks.
Bakley also had a history of pursuing celebrities. Her friends and relatives all described her as "celebrity-obsessed". She claimed to have had an affair with rock legend Jerry Lee Lewis and borne his daughter in 1993, but DNA tests later disproved her claim. Lewis has denied ever having a relationship with Bakley. Tapes of Bakley's phone conversations reveal that she was starstruck and bent on marrying someone famous. "I like being around celebrities," she once said, "it makes you feel better than other people."
Her lonely hearts fraud, however, continued to be lucrative. She was able to marry several of her victims swindling a number of men out of their savings and life insurance. Eventually she obtained enough money to buy two houses and several undeveloped lots in Memphis and a house outside of LA; additionally, her lonely hearts fraud funded her unsuccessful Hollywood career as a singer and actor under the stage name Leebonny.
Initially, Bakley believed that Christian Brando was the father, but later told Blake she wasn't sure, and that it might have been his. When a DNA test determined that it was Blake, not Brando, that was the father of Bakley's youngest child, Blake agreed to marry her. It was his second marriage, her tenth. Their marriage was somewhat unconventional. Bakley lived in a small guest house beside her husband's house in the Studio City area of the San Fernando Valley. It is rumored that Blake only married her to eventually get custody of their child, whom Blake wanted his childless daughter to raise.
On May 4, 2001 Blake took Bakley to an Italian dinner at Vitello's Restaurant on Tujunga Boulevard in Studio City. Afterward, Bakley was murdered by a gunshot to the head while sitting in the car, which was parked on a side street around the corner from the restaurant. Blake had returned to the restaurant to collect a gun which he had left there, and was not present when the shooting occurred. His gun did not fire the fatal shots.
She was buried at Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills Memorial Park.
Blake's defense team and members of the jury responded that the prosecution had failed to prove its case. During the trial, the defense alleged that Bakley was a drug addict who used her daughter for prostitution.
On November 18 2005, Blake was found liable for the wrongful death of his wife in a civil trial. Bakley's four children sued him, asserting he was responsible for their mother's death. The jury ordered him to pay $30 million.