A Burlingame man accused of beating his roommate to death in December 2011 testified today that he was defending himself against an armed and aggressive attack by the 70-year-old victim. Lawrence Hoffman, 65, took the witness stand in San Mateo County Superior Court, where he is on trial for murdering his roommate, Joe Consentino, in the apartment they shared on Garden Drive on Dec. 5, 2011. Wearing a dark suit, blue shirt and blue tie, Hoffman recounted the events leading up to the fatal confrontation, testifying that he endured weeks of verbal abuse from his roommate that ranged from calling the defendant lazy to making demeaning comments about his ex-wife and two daughters. “Joe was arrogant, bossy, critical,” Hoffman said. “He was smoking too much.” At around 4 a.m. on the morning of the killing, Hoffman testified that Consentino confronted him in the hallway of their apartment holding a mallet in the air ready to strike him. Hoffman said his roommate was in his underwear, and that he ordered the defendant to perform oral sex on him. “He told me to suck his c—,” Hoffman said. “That phrase made me feel afraid.”
Hoffman had testified earlier that he had been sodomized and beaten by his father as a child, and that he was sexually assaulted during a Boy Scout trip when he was a teenager. When confronted by Consentino, the defendant said he “snapped” and wrestled the mallet away from the man, pushed him, and then struck him in the back of the head with the weapon as he fell away. “I took it away from him before he could use it,” Hoffman said. When Consentino fell on the floor of the hallway, Hoffman admitted to hitting him in the head at least two more times before realizing what he had done. “I was in a frenzy,” he said. Deputy District Attorney Al Serrato questioned Hoffman’s version of events, and pressed the defendant on whether he felt genuinely threatened by a 70-year-old man who suffered from emphysema and was four to six inches shorter than him. “I thought he was going to hurt me,” Hoffman said.
Fearful that police wouldn’t believe his story, Hoffman said he covered the body with blankets and left the apartment, tossing his blood-spattered clothes and the murder weapon in a Dumpster. “I wasn’t thinking,” he said. Consentino’s body was found three days later by Burlingame police, who went to the apartment after an associate of Hoffman’s said the defendant confessed to killing his roommate. The victim had a five-inch hole in the back of his skull, according to the district attorney’s office. The murder weapon was never recovered. Hoffman fled to Southern California, where he was taken into custody on Dec. 8 by a SWAT team at a Glendale motel. Hoffman said that he knew he would be arrested, and that he had been thinking of turning himself in. “I knew where this was going,” he said. “I killed somebody.” Hoffman is expected to continue his testimony on Tuesday.
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