According to The San Diego Union-Tribune, AS I LAY DYING frontman Tim Lambesis, who is accused of trying to hire a hitman to kill his estranged wife, pleaded not guilty earlier today (Thursday, May 9) to a felony charge of solicitation of murder and was ordered held on $3 million bail. He faces nine years in state prison if convicted.
At Lambesis' arraignment in Vista Superior Court in Vista, California, Deputy District Attorney Claudia Grasso said that the musician told someone at a gym that he wanted his wife dead. He allegedly met with an undercover agent posing as a hitman, who asked Lambesis if he wanted his wife gone, and Lambesis replied, "Yes, that's what I want." Lambesis then gave the agent an envelope containing $1,000 in cash with detailed instructions — including pictures of his wife, her address and the code to get through a gate and dates when the "hit" could take place; when he had his children, saying that would be his alibi on how to kill his estranged wife.
The prosecutor argued at the arraignment — which was attended by Tim's family, fans, AS I LAY DYING manager and band lawyer — that Lambesis be held on $20 million bail, but his defense attorney countered that the amount was unreasonable.
Defense attorney Anthony Salerno said afterward that he believed his client may have been the victim of a setup. "Law enforcement was fed something by someone who effectively orchestrated the whole thing ... [Tim] did not intend to harm anybody," said the lawyer, who added that someone may have given false information about Lambesis to authorities in order to "save his own skin." "If I had to hang a tag on it, I'd call it a scumbag snitch setup," he said.
A readiness conference has been scheduled for June 10 with a preliminary hearing to follow on July 10.
Photos and video footage of the arraignment from KFMB-TV and NBC 7 can be seen below.
Lambesis' wife Meggan filed for divorce in September, citing "irreconcilable differences." The couple, who had been married for eight years and were separated at the time, had adopted two girls at ages 6 and 8 in 2011 and a 1-year-old boy in 2009, all from Ethiopia.
The relationship suffered a major blow last August when Tim sent an email to his wife saying he no longer loved her and did not want to be with her anymore. He also wrote that he no longer believed in God, the prosecutor said.
Tim Lambesis was taken into custody without incident on Tuesday (May 7) around 2 p.m. at a Barnes & Noble bookstore in Oceanside, California, according to San Diego Sheriff's Department.
Authorities began investigating Lambesis, 32, in the case on May 2, when they received information that he allegedly was trying to get someone to kill his wife.