By Dan Whitcomb
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A 70-year-old professional tennis official arrested in New York ahead of the U.S. Open on charges she bludgeoned her elderly husband to death with a coffee mug pleaded not guilty on Wednesday in Los Angeles.
During a brief hearing in Los Angeles Superior Court, a commissioner agreed to lower bail for lineswoman Lois Ann Goodman from $1 million to $500,000, citing her age and ties to the community.
Commissioner Mitchell Block ordered Goodman, who was returned to Los Angeles from New York last week following her arrest, back to court on October 3 for a preliminary hearing in the case, at which time a judge will determine if there is enough evidence to put her on trial.
The veteran tennis official is charged with a single count of murder in the April 17 death of her 80-year-old husband, Alan Goodman, at the couple's home in the Woodland Hills section of Los Angeles. She faces a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted.
According to Los Angeles police, the death of Goodman's husband was ruled a homicide on August 2, and by the time charges were brought against Goodman, she had left for New York to officiate at the U.S. Open.
Police say it was Goodman who reported her husband's death, telling authorities she found him in their home with no sign of forced entry and surmised he had suffered a heart attack and fallen down a set of stairs.
But a search of the home turned up the broken coffee mug that roughly matched contusions on Alan Goodman's head, authorities say.
During the court hearing, Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Lisa Tanner said Alan Goodman had multiple lacerations and slivers of porcelain in his skull. Tanner said Lois Goodman left the scene to get a manicure following the crime.
Defense attorney Alison Triessl told reporters outside court that family members were attempting to raise the $500,000 bail for Goodman and were "adamant" that she was innocent of murder.
Goodman is well known in tennis circles and had worked at the annual U.S. Open Tennis Championships tournament for at least the past 10 years, mainly as a line judge, according to the U.S. Tennis Association.
(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Philip Barbara)