Heavy metal singer Tim Lambesis of As I Lay Dying has pleaded not guilty to plotting the attempted murder of his wife.
The Grammy-nominated musician is alleged by prosecutors to have given an envelope containing $1,000 in cash to an undercover agent with instructions on how to kill his estranged wife along with her photograph, address, security gate code and dates he would be with their children to give him an alibi.
Prosecutors made the allegation in court yesterday just moments after Lambesis, 32, pleaded not guilty to solicitation of murder. A judge set bail at $3 million (£1.95 million) under the condition he wear a GPS monitoring device, and imposed strict travel restrictions.
The court heard that during a meeting with the undercover agent on 7 May, Lambesis was recorded as saying he wanted his wife killed, Claudia Grasso, a San Diego County prosecutor, said.
The attempted murder plot is alleged to have come about after the singer told a man at his gym on 23 April and again on 24 April that he wanted his wife killed. He is alleged to have complained that she was making it difficult for him to see their children and impossible to complete their divorce, authorities said.
Defence lawyer Anthony Salerno told reporters that Lambesis did not intend to harm anybody and was apparently set up by the man at the gym.
"Law enforcement was being fed something by someone that I strongly believe was a snitch, was out to save his own skin and was trumping things up, exaggerating things," Salerno said.
The lawyer declined to address specific allegations.
Lambesis was arrested on Tuesday at a store north of San Diego. If convicted, he could face as many as nine years in prison.
In court on Thursday, Lambesis stared straight ahead from behind a glass partition while supporters packed the room.
Grasso said the singer emailed his wife while on tour in August telling her that he didn't love her anymore, expressing that he wanted to end the relationship and that he no longer believed in God. Meggan Lambesis later learned her husband was having an affair and had been involved with "a string of women," the prosecutor alleges.
Meggan Lambesis said in divorce papers filed last Autumn that her husband had fallen asleep while caring for their three children near a pool and had spent endless hours at a gym and thousands of dollars on tattoos.
The musician's wife also said in the court papers that Lambesis toured six months a year and had taken two last-minute trips in a month to see a girlfriend in Florida.
She asked the court to order an expert to examine their music-related businesses and other assets. She also submitted a tax return showing the couple grossed $233,000 (£151,000) in 2010 but did not specify an amount she was seeking for spousal support.
The couple adopted their children, aged 4, 8 and ten, from Ethiopia, and Tim Lambesis continued to see them for about ten hours a week when he was not on tour, even though the couple were no longer living together, according to court documents.
Meggan Lambesis said the couple would try private mediation to work out custody and visitation issues.
Tim Lambesis' comments about his Grammy-nominated band's latest album, Awakened, indicated he may have been struggling. The singer, who has a degree in religious studies, is known for his growled vocals and philosophical lyrics, which he has said are written from his perspective as a Christian.
The band's website says the album — released the same month his wife filed for divorce after eight years of marriage — is a "far darker, more pessimistic beast" than previous albums.
"On this record, I wasn't purposefully trying to be negative, but I think sometimes we have to be honest with some of the darker and more difficult times of our lives to get back to that positivity," Lambesis is quoted as saying.
A man who answered the phone at a number listed in the singer's name in Del Mar said the family was not commenting at this time.
As I Lay Dying formed in San Diego in 2000 and has released six albums, including 2007's An Ocean Between Us, which reached No. 8 on Billboard's charts. A single from the album, Nothing Left, was nominated for a Grammy for top metal performance.
The band, which plays in an aggressive style that features metal guitar riffs at the furious pace of hardcore punk, was scheduled to tour the country this summer.
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