Tim Lambesis world exclusive interview: The As I Lay Dying singer breaks his year-long silence

May 16, 2014 by Ryan J. Downey

Tim Lambesis world exclusive interview: The As I Lay Dying singer breaks his year-long silence

How did things get so bad that you would even entertain the idea of her death?
After our separation, I was only allowed to see the kids twice a week. And it had to be somewhere Meggan could sit in the distance and literally watch me watch the kids.

How’d that start? Is that legal?
Well, I realize that a lot of my behavior since then justifies her skepticism. Her attitude was, “He decided to leave me. There’s nothing wrong with me. He must be crazy.” If you’re emotionally defending yourself, that’s a reasonable way to react to a certain degree. But eventually you gotta get to that point where you realize, “Whether it's my fault or his fault that we're not together, we're just not together.”

Had you fallen in love with someone else?
No. When I decided to separate, I had been talking to somebody. We were kind of dating more or less, but it wasn’t like, “Oh, I’m in love.” It wasn’t someone I was trying to run off with and it wasn’t the first infidelity, either. But it was the first one I wasn’t even bothering to try to hide. It was pretty much like we were almost dating.

What was your relationship with the band and crew like at the time?
They were all pretty aware of what was going on. But none of them called me out on it. Looking back, I wish they had been like, “Yo, dude, is this really how you want your life to unfold?” I understand it was awkward. “We know he’s cheating on his wife, we know he’s going to end his marriage, we know he’s on steroids.” They all definitely knew I had [strayed] from my marriage and at least some of them know about the steroids.

Is it true that you ended your marriage by email?
I was on tour and she could tell, over the phone, that something was wrong. I said, “I’m going to be home in three days. I really want to talk about this when I get home.” I didn’t want to talk about it over the phone. And she says, kind of like a Gandhi hunger strike, “I’m not going to go to sleep until I know what’s going on with this.” I didn’t want her to endure any more pain. I didn’t want her to stay up all night. I would have rather told her this in person, but I said, “I don’t love you the way you love me. I want you to be able to go forward in life and be happy. I want you to be with somebody who really loves you.” I had an illusion that I was dong the “noble” thing. I separated from her over the phone. I sent her an email to follow up with my thoughts on everything. As far as the email about no longer being a Christian, that email was actually a considerable time before that.

The perception is you wrote, “I’m cheating on you! I’m an atheist! Bye!”
That’s because when the D.A. brings it up in court, she just says it without putting dates on anything, so it comes across that way. I can’t say for sure, but it was definitely about six months prior. Anyway, so I told her all of that, I get home and she tells me I can see the kids twice a week for two hours at a time. “I talked to somebody and they said that’s reasonable.” I don’t blame her for [how she felt]. But after a couple of weeks, it’s like, “We’re separated. You’re going to have to learn how to make this work. You can’t limit my time and observe me.” In all of her time observing me, I might not have handled things exactly how she wanted, but I was a good father. I mean, that's for sure. She’d say, “Well, remember that one time you fell asleep by the pool,” and I was like, “Yes, because we were both there, and I told you I was feeling nauseous.” So yes, I nodded my head, fell asleep for a nanosecond in my chair, then shook my head, stood up and wouldn’t sit down anymore because I was afraid of falling asleep. I was like, “You can bring these things that happened one time up for so long, but eventually, you’re going to have to learn how to just let me be a dad.” It was frustrating to have my time with the kids limited and controlled. But I figured we’d get through it eventually. But it went on so long, by the time we had a judge make a ruling on custody, the kids viewed me as an outsider. It was like I was somebody that just visited them.

What did you two tell the kids about the separation?
We told them together. We let them know they could ask any questions. The next day, one of my daughters had some questions. I thought she seemed to be doing well, given the traumatic situation. But once I became like an outsider, like, this visitor, I was… They called me “Dad.” But they weren't really sure the role I was supposed to play in their lives. Not because I didn't want to play a greater role, but because they thought that Mom took care of them and Dad was just some random guy at that point, and this was after awhile of me having this really controlled schedule. I told the social worker that was preparing us for the courts how frustrating that was, that I really needed more time with the kids, immediately. The social worker seemed to reassure me that I would get more time with them, eventually.

Meggan wanted 100 percent custody. She was really honest about that. If it were up to her, I’d have nothing to do with them. She told me a few times she wished I was dead. Those are not unique thoughts for me to have. She felt those things toward me, too. Not that she would have ever taken it to the level that I did. But when she said those things, I thought, “She’s going to try to push me out of their lives. I need to get more time with the kids.”

It doesn’t sound like she wanted you dead; she’d just be happy if you were gone.
She actually said, “We’d be better off if you were…” So when she realized I was working toward getting more custody, I think her next play was to win them over emotionally, to completely make me the outsider. Certain things started happening. One afternoon, my daughter asked my mom, “Why didn’t Daddy want to adopt me?” My mom calls me over and we all start talking further. My daughter says, “Why do you go on tour? Is it because you don’t want to spend time with us?” I told myself, “Well, these are natural questions, she’s just feeling some doubts.” Later, that turned into, “Daddy goes on tour because he doesn't want to spend time with us, and he doesn't love us like Mommy does.” It went from a question to a statement. I knew something [was up].

I was giving the kids a snack one afternoon. I wasn’t religious, but I knew they prayed with Mommy. So I said, “Hey, are we supposed to pray before your snack?” I wanted to keep their routines. It’s one of the healthiest things you can do in a divorce situation. They said, “No, we only pray with Mommy.” There was a sense of exclusivity about it. The prideful part of me, and the curious part wanted to pry a little bit. So I go, “What do you guys pray with Mommy about?” I asked in a way, like, “Why is it so exclusive?” And my daughter goes, “Mommy prays with us at night that we don’t have to go to Daddy’s house anymore." I turned around, walked into the kitchen… I like, pretended… I think I had some apples that I was putting on a plate or something. I pretended like slicing those apples was the hardest thing I had ever done, because it felt like the hardest thing I’d ever done… It probably was only two or three minutes, but it took me what seemed like an eternity to be able to put those apples on that plate, take a deep breath, turn around and bring the rest of the snacks to the kids.

She told the kids that they weren't safe with my parents. They had a great relationship with my parents. They would help Meggan when it was an overwhelming night and I was gone and she needed that extra hand. But eventually it wasn’t just her and I, it became our two families feuding. My daughter said, “We’re not allowed to be alone with Grandma.” I said, “Why not?” She said, “We’re not safe with Grandma.” That was when I realized there were no boundaries to this family feud. I was trying to be the best father I could be.

Were you saying negative things about her to the kids?
To confess, I did fall into that trap a little bit. Here’s an example. I was supposed to drop off the kids, but she wasn’t home. Since she would only communicate by email or text, I couldn’t get her to answer the phone. I said, “Well, Mommy doesn’t know how to work her cell phone.” She would let them eat things I wouldn’t normally allow them to eat. I’d say, “Well, Mommy doesn’t know anything about nutrition.” The kids don’t need to hear that. These were minor things, but I shouldn’t have said them. It’s not fair to the kids.

But the thing about your parents crossed a line?
That was the moment where I realized that if I'm not going to be physically gone from my kids’ lives, I was going to be emotionally gone, unless something happens. I talked to my lawyer. I told that story. It’s all documented with the social worker, the whole thing, the praying… I asked my lawyer, “How soon can we get in front of a judge? Because I need something to happen.” She said, just being realistic, it would be at least a couple of months, at the soonest. And I remember, just being like, if, you know… [Sighs.]

You felt like you didn’t have a couple of months?
Yeah. I felt like the courts weren’t able to do anything for me. I wasn’t an angry or vengeful person, I was just hurting. In trying to describe the emotions that eventually led to the conversations I had prior to my arrest, it definitely wasn’t like… I mean, I wasn’t like screaming her name, or like swearing… I wasn’t angry.

This guy at my gym, my workout partner, I just expressed to him how sad I was. I asked the guy I had been buying steroids from, the steroid dealer, if we could meet. I’m talking to him in the parking lot one afternoon and I go, “Hey, how’s it going?” He goes, “Pretty good, unless you maybe need me to kill somebody for you.” Like that, right off the bat.

I’m kind of like, “Whoa, what are you talking about?” He goes, “Well I’ve heard you’ve been pretty frustrated with your wife…” He just kind of had—I mean, he’s a steroid dealer. He has a sketchy background, you know what I mean? So I’m thinking, “Geez, where’s this guy going with this?” He starts asking me these seemingly rhetorical questions. “Have you tried working things out with your lawyer?” I said yeah, but it was going to be a couple of months before I saw the judge. “Have you tried taking them to a social worker? Like a counselor?” I said yes and the social worker had met with the kids.

He goes, “Well, you know your other option is I can hook you up with somebody that could do this.” And he goes, “Can you think of a better option?” He’s asking it like it’s a rhetorical question. I remember thinking at the time, “This doesn’t feel right. This doesn’t feel like my best option.” But my thinking at that time… As much as I wished there was a better option, this is my best option. Obviously, right now, I can think of a dozen things and I understand the legal system much better. Legally speaking, there are emergency type things where you can get a judge to see you earlier, which I didn’t know. There are dozens of things I can think of now. But I just started to develop this mindset of, “Alright… I guess this seems like the path I’m going to have to go down.”

The guy you’re talking about is Brett Kimball. In court, he said, “He began by asking me if I knew why I was there. I made the comment that I was hoping it wasn't to kill anybody. He said that was funny, because that was exactly why I was there. We went back in and had a conversation and started talking about the situation at hand…” Brett claims he offered you alternatives. “Go to a counselor, talk to somebody…”
It’s not like he presented alternatives like he was trying to talk me into one. He presented the alternatives as a means to talk me out of them. “You want to try this stupid thing? You want to try that stupid thing?” It was like the steroid [pitch]. “You’re going to GNC to buy the testosterone booster? You don’t want to take the real deal?” Granted, I know it’s a matter of perspective, but that’s how he presented it.

He said you wouldn’t be dissuaded.
Here’s what’s interesting: His testimony was thrown out. When we cross-examined him, my lawyer says, “I’m sorry I have to ask you these questions, but, are you a steroid dealer?” And Brett says, “Uh… no.” And then my lawyer asks, “Have you ever distributed a list of steroids to people at the gym?” We had the list of steroids he would pass out, his solicitation list. He’s like, “No.” The judge goes, “Jurors, hold on. We’re taking a recess. This guy needs to realize what he’s saying on the stands.”

Was he under oath?
He was under oath. The judge takes a recess and assigns Brett a public defender. They go and talk in the hallway. He comes back and the public defender says, on the record, “Brett Kimble, would you like to plead the fifth?” And he says, “Yes.” And he says, because he went into this unadvised, “Would you like your testimony to be stricken from the record?” And his testimony was struck from the record. There were cameras in the courtroom and they were broadcasting live. The judge says, “Can you delete that from the tapes?” They said, “Yeah, but, we already broadcasted it live.” He goes, “Well, as long as that’s the only broadcast, just make sure they never broadcast that part again.”

Clearly, he didn’t want to talk about his crimes, just yours.
It was very quickly shown that he was an illegitimate witness. The testimony against me at my sentencing will be the testimony of the actual undercover officer.

You and Brett agree about the “unless you need me to kill somebody” comment.
Yes. His version of the story starts out the same as mine.

If he wasn’t somebody who could make that happen, why make that joke?
Everybody who knows him, including his friends, have said Brett making this connection and turning this whole thing over to the police was not altruism. He wasn’t trying to make the world a better place. Everybody knows he did something that helped him in some way. But nobody knows what that is. It’s not even up for debate with people that know him. It’s not like, “Oh, Brett’s just such a good guy. He just wanted to make the world a better place.” I mean, this is the guy that, if he came up to you and was like, “Oh yeah, dude, I can totally have somebody killed for you.” You wouldn’t doubt it for a second. I’m not saying all steroid dealers are potential murderers. But this was a guy who was in massive amounts of debt to other dealers. Other dealers had been in the gym looking for him, looking to rough him up. I never personally saw this, but people at the gym said the Hells Angels were looking for him and that plainclothes police officers had come in looking for him, too. All of these things happened within two weeks of when this happened. The chances of him doing something to help himself are very high; the chances of him doing something to make the world a better place are very low. Something in the story just doesn’t add up.

That’s why my plea was not guilty. Well, my initial plea was not guilty, just because that’s how the system is set up. The system is not set up to deal with a guilty plea initially. But the second time, I pled not guilty, because I was convinced this was a textbook case of entrapment. I admit, in my heart, as a human being, I was guilty, because my heart was capable of going there. But in the court of law, I firmly believed I was innocent. What I found is that there’s really no such thing as an entrapment defense. It’s a myth, like a unicorn. Let’s say there are 10 things that would necessitate an entrapment defense, the government is like, “We’ll just do nine of those 10 things.”

 

 

What happened after that conversation? Was Brett going to look for somebody?
No, he had someone in mind. He didn’t say the guy’s name right then. I left the conversation thinking somewhere in the distant future, he would have me talk to some guy. No crime had been committed; the wheels were in motion for some sort of potential meeting. Brett calls me right before I leave for the Asian tour. He says, “Hey man, I really need to talk to you.” So I go and meet him. He says, “Hey, I’ve got this guy, we’ve got it all set up. His name is Red. He’s from Texas. So when you’re on tour, sometime when you’re in Texas, I’ll have him come meet you.” My curiosity got the best of me. “This sounds interesting. This Red dude sounds gnarly.” At that point, whether a crime was going to happen or not, I was just super-interested to meet this dude. I mean, you meet a lot of bizarre characters on tour. I was curious.

At the end of that conversation, Brett goes, “Oh, by the way, I need to borrow $8,000.” I’m like, “Dude, I’m leaving for Asia first thing tomorrow morning. The banks are closed. What do you need it for, anyway?” He says, “Oh, I’m managing this guitar player kid, and he’s going to be playing this TV show thing and I need to get some merchandise because…” He’s talking in circles. He needs $8,000. Nothing else he’s saying makes sense.

I said, “Dude, I’m really sorry, but there’s no way I can get you $8,000 by tomorrow.” I wonder: if I had let him borrow the money, would he have set me up like that? How irrelevant is $8,000 in the scheme of destroying a whole person’s life? But maybe that was enough to piss him off to be like, “Well, screw that guy! I need to get out of some trouble I’m in with the cops, and I'm going to put it on this guy.”

There are so many nights where I just stayed up in my cell just staring at the ceiling, in an isolation booth, thinking, “Why did this guy do this?” I’d actually feel better if I found out he got off some really gnarly charges, like he was going to serve 15 years in prison but he got off. That would at least provide an explanation. That's some sort of satisfactory answer, as much as it would still make me bummed and frustrated.

I found out shortly before my sentencing that Brett has been arrested six times—three of them for theft. The records list a conviction or a reason for [each] arrest—except one. His sixth arrest was two months before my arrest. The official record says that arrest was for “undisclosed reasons.” This doesn’t help my court case at all, unfortunately. My lawyer said that my best defense, in terms of logic, would get me the worst sentence.

Where is Brett now?
They moved him to Texas. I don’t think he’s in Witness Protection, but they did move him from California to Texas, so clearly, there’s some sort of protection going on. He needed to start a new life. He had Hells Angels looking for him, cops looking for him, other steroid dealers he owed money to. He definitely needed a fresh life.

So I get back from Asia late at night on May 6. I’m woken up May 7 by a phone call from Brett. It was probably only 10 or 11, but with jetlag, I was still asleep. He’s like, “Remember that guy Red I was telling you about? He’s in town. He’s going to leave soon. You have to meet with him today.”

A guy calls me, says he’s Red. He goes, “We’re not going to talk about anything until we meet in person, but, I need you to bring me these things in order for the meeting to happen.” He specifically says, “I need you to bring me pictures, an address and $1,000 for expenses. So, I’m thinking, “He’s going to be doing some research. We’re not committing a crime right now. It’s just research.”

Having just gone through the separation, I actually didn’t have any pictures of her saved. I literally went online and printed black and white pictures of her. I didn’t have any pictures of her ready because I hadn’t been thinking about this whole thing. So I bring him exactly what he asked for and we meet –

He asked for the alarm codes, too?
No. That works against me, if I'm being honest. I printed her address and the pictures and all that. Right before I got out of the car to meet him, I’m thinking, “I should probably write a couple more things down here.” I didn’t want him to be snooping around the house, seeing what was going on, when my kids were there. So I wrote down when I’d have the kids. Then I was like, “I don’t know this dude. He’s probably a big thuggy dude. He’s going to look really obvious. I should probably write down the gate code so he’s not hopping fences and stuff.” So I write these things down, and those are very clearly handwritten later. I printed up exactly what he asked me to bring, and at the last minute I wrote those things down, because I kind of panicked.

It’s like your rational mind was trying to get back in control.
It's all such last-minute insanity. Granted, here I haven't slept more than five or six hours in a week at this point, in one night. In the last week, I maybe slept 30 hours. I'm just like, “I'm going to go meet this guy” and he's asking me all these really weird questions.

Wait, back up: So you meet him in person.
He tells me to meet him at Barnes & Noble. I walk in, and there's this biker-looking dude. Clearly, it was Red. He gives me the “what’s up?” and I gave him the “what’s up?” and then we’re just walking in one of the aisles, just talking. He’s asking me these really direct questions. “What is it you want me to help you with? What is it you want?” I was just like, “Man, I want my ex-wife gone.”

I’m thinking at this point we’re still doing research. He asked me for money for “expenses.” As the conversation goes on, he’s trying to get me to be more direct. He’s like, “I don’t want to do a job where I thought I was just supposed to beat somebody up and I was really supposed to do something else. I need you to be really specific.”

I was like, “Man, I just want her gone.” I wanted to make the hurt stop. That’s what I was focused on. I know this sounds ridiculous, but it’s like a big bear defending its cubs. Whatever I had to do, you know what I mean? It’s not in my nature to be growly and gnashing my teeth. I’m a pretty calm guy. I’m kind of passively saying, “I want her gone.” It’s just too much for me to handle. I don’t know how to handle any of it.

He’s pushing. “I want you to specifically say exactly what you want.” I’m thinking, “Is this dude stupid?” Obviously, I’m the one who is stupid. But in my mind, at the time, I’m thinking, “Man, I’m making it pretty clear here.” He says, “Just to be clear: You want your wife dead?” So right before I leave, I walk over to him and I say, “Yeah, just so you understand.” I don’t know why I didn’t realize I was the stupid one. There I was thinking he was the stupid one. But I’m really the stupidest dude in the world. That’s when I said, “Yes, to answer your question specifically, that’s what I want.” He’s got that recorded.

He asks me if I brought the stuff he asked me to bring. I said yes and that it was in the car. We go to the car, I hand him the envelope with everything in it through the window, I kick my car into reverse, look over my shoulder to back up, turn around and kick the car into drive and as soon as I turned my head back around, there was a gun at my head. >>>

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