General Crime

Joseph Bontempo Arraigned On Charge He Murdered His Wife In Oakland

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A locksmith whose attorney says he’s innocent was arraigned today on a charge that he murdered his wife at their home in Oakland’s Montclair district last month.

Joseph Bontempo, 53, who’s charged in the death of Laurie Wolfe, his wife, is scheduled to return to Alameda County Superior Court on Monday to enter a plea and have a bail hearing. He’s currently being held at the Santa Rita Jail in Dublin without bail.

Oakland police said Bontempo called them at about 6:30 p.m. on July 6 to report that his wife had died after slipping on the stairs of their home in the 6700 block of the couple’s home in the 6700 block of Saroni Drive.

Wolfe was pronounced dead at the scene after police and paramedics responded to Bontempo’s call.

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 office concluded in an autopsy that was completed last week that Wolfe died from blunt force trauma that wasn’t consistent with a fall so the Coroner’s office classified her death as a homicide, according to Sanchez.

Bontempo was arrested at 3411 Crane Way in the Montclair district at about 10 a.m. on Tuesday, police said.

Defense attorney Ed Swanson said after Bontempo’s brief court appearance today that Bontempo is innocent and that Wolfe’s death “was not a homicide but instead was a tragic loss for my client.”

Swanson said Bontempo and Wolfe were partners for 20 years and were married for the past 12 years.

He said Bontempo is having “a hard time” now but will fight the charges against him.

Swanson said that when Bontempo returns to court on Monday he will argue that Bontempo should be entitled to bail but he declined to specify what bail amount he will seek.

In an unusual move, Swanson huddled with Superior Court Judge Trina Thompson and prosecutor Danielle London in Thompson’s chambers before Bontempo was arraigned. Swanson didn’t disclose the purpose of the secret hearing.

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