VISTA, Calif. - The lead singer of a San Diego-based rock band accused of trying to hire a hit man to murder his estranged wife pleaded not guilty Thursday to a felony charge of solicitation of murder and was ordered held on $3 million bail.
Timothy Peter Lambesis, front man and co-founder of the heavy metal group As I Lay Dying, was arrested at an Oceanside bookstore on Tuesday afternoon after allegedly asking an undercover detective to kill his spouse, Meggan, according to sheriff's officials.
The defendant faces nine years in state prison if convicted.
Authorities began investigating Lambesis, 32, in the case a week ago, when they say they got word he was trying to get someone to kill his wife.
Lambesis and his band had just returned from a tour that included stops in the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, Taiwan, South Korea and China, and was scheduled to start a series of U.S. shows in about three weeks.
The suspect's wife, an Encinitas resident, filed for divorce last September, Billboard magazine reported. The couple had adopted three children from Ethiopia together in recent years, according to the music-industry publication.
Deputy District Attorney Claudia Grasso said that Lambesis originally approached someone in a gym and asked if he knew anyone who would kill his wife.
Later Lambesis met with the undercover agent posing as a hit man -- code name "Red" -- according to Grasso.
"Red" asked Lambesis if he wanted his wife of eight years gone, and the defendant replied, "I don't want to see her ever again." When specifically asked, "Do you want her dead?" He said, "Yes, that's exactly what I want," the prosecutor said.
Grasso said Lambesis gave the undercover agent an envelope containing $1,000, pictures of his wife, her address and the code to get through a gate. Lambesis also gave the agent dates when the "hit" could take place -- days when he had his children, saying that would be his alibi, according to the prosecutor.
As I Lay Dying's most recent release, last year's "Awakened," debuted at No. 11 on the Billboard charts. The band's previous two albums opened at Nos. 10 and 8, respectively.
The Grammy-nominated group, which has been described as a "Christian band" due to its lyrics and self-professed religious beliefs, has released six studio records and sold more than 1 million albums with Metal Blade Records.
A message addressed to As I Lay Dying's fans released on the group's website by its other members -- Jordan Mancino, Nick Hipa, Phil Sgrosso and Josh Gilbert -- said their thoughts were with Lambesis, his family and everyone affected by the situation, and their fans from whom they draw strength.
"There are many unanswered questions, and the situation will become clearer in the coming days and weeks. We'll keep you informed as best we can," according to the statement.
Lambesis, an avid bodybuilder, is also the creative force behind Austrian Death Machine, a spoof band based on his fondness for Arnold Schwarzenegger. The singer's wife is listed as performing backing vocals on that band's 2008 debut album, "Total Brutal," Billboard reported.
Vista Superior Court Judge Martin Staven scheduled a readiness conference for June 10 and a preliminary hearing for July 10.
Grasso said of Meggan Lambesis, "She's terrified, yes, and she's in seclusion now."
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