Christian heavy metal singer pleads not guilty to murder-for-hire

VISTA, Calif.

The allegations came just after Tim Lambesis, 32, front man for the Christian-inspired hard rock group As I Lay Dying, pleaded not guilty Thursday to solicitation of murder. A judge set bail at $3 million and said if he is released, he must wear a GPS monitoring device and face strict travel restrictions.

During a Tuesday meeting with the agent who went by the alias "Red," Lambesis was recorded saying he wanted his wife killed, said Claudia Grasso, a San Diego County deputy district attorney.

The undercover operation was staged after the singer twice told a man at his gym last month that he wanted his wife killed, complaining that she was making it difficult for him to see the three children they adopted from Ethiopia and making it impossible to complete their divorce, the prosecutor said.

Defense attorney Anthony Salerno told reporters 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," Salerno said.

The lawyer declined to address specific allegations.

If convicted, Lambesis faces up to nine years in prison.

In court, he stared straight ahead from behind a glass partition in a courtroom packed with his supporters.

The prosecutor said the singer emailed his wife while on tour last year to say he didn't love her, wanted to end the relationship, and no longer believed in God. Meggan Lambesis later learned her husband had been involved with "a string of women."

Grasso asked Superior Court Judge Martin Staven to set bail at $20 million, saying Meggan Lambesis was terrified and living "in seclusion" with their three children.

"He is substantially motivated to kill his wife," she said.

Bail conditions prohibit Lambesis from contacting his wife or children. He cannot leave the San Diego area except to see his attorney in Los Angeles.

Salerno said he expected Lambesis to make bail, but prospects for a 30-city U.S. tour that begins May 30 in Oklahoma City appeared uncertain. The attorney said he would ask the judge for permission to travel if the band wants to go ahead with the concerts.

As I Lay Dying, a metal band that plays at the furious pace of hardcore punk, 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.


Associated Press writer Julie Watson in San Diego contributed to this report.

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