General Crime

Joseph Bontempo Accused of Murdering His Wife Laurie Wolfe Pleads Not Guilty

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A locksmith pleaded not guilty today to a charge that he murdered his wife at their home in Oakland’s Montclair district last month. Joseph Bontempo, 53, who is charged in the death of his wife Laurie Wolfe, is scheduled to return to Alameda County Superior Court on Sept. 15 for a pretrial hearing.

Prosecutors charged Bontempo with murder last Wednesday for the death of Wolfe, who was found dead at the couple’s home in the 6700 block of Saroni Drive shortly after 6:30 p.m. on July 6. Oakland police said Bontempo called them at that time to report that his wife had died after slipping on the stairs of their home. Bontempo told police that he didn’t see his wife fall and that he and his wife were the only people at their home at the time, Oakland police Officer Leo Sanchez wrote in a probable cause statement.

However, police officers thought there were “suspicious circumstances” surrounding Wolfe’s death and continued investigating the matter, Sanchez said. Pathologist Dr. Thomas Rogers of the Alameda County coroner’s bureau concluded in an autopsy completed two weeks ago that Wolfe died from blunt force trauma that wasn’t consistent with a fall so the coroner’s bureau classified her death as a homicide, according to Sanchez. Bontempo, who is being held in custody without bail, was arrested last Tuesday, police said.

Bontempo’s attorney Ed Swanson, who says that his client is innocent, said last Thursday at the initial arraignment that he would ask a judge to set bail for Bontempo at his hearing today. Swanson decided not to seek bail for Bontempo today but said he will seek it at a future hearing. He didn’t say what bail amount he will request for Bontempo, who wore glasses and was dressed in a yellow jail uniform today. About 10 of Bontempo’s family members and friends came to his hearing today to support him.

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