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'America's Got Talent' contestant offers rewards in wife's death

By Ted Rowlands and Michael Martinez, CNN
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Musician Joe Finley auditioned for a TV show even though his wife had been found dead
  • Authorities say they are still investigating the death; Finley says her death is "murder"
  • Finley says police tried to get him to confess, but he says he had nothing to do with her death
  • He's offering a $25,000 reward for the person responsible for his wife's death

Los Angeles (CNN) -- An "America's Got Talent" contestant who was questioned by police in connection with his wife's death is now offering $25,000 for information leading to a conviction in his wife's "murder," the contestant says.

Joe Finley, 47, a Los Angeles, California-area rock musician, said he wants to find the person responsible for what he called his wife's "murder." His wife's body was found just hours before he auditioned for "America's Got Talent" in October.

On Wednesday, Lt. Fred Corral of the Los Angeles County coroner's department said Laura Finley's cause of death is still being investigated, and he added he's waiting on toxicology tests, which should be completed by the first week of January.

Also this week, Los Angeles police said the case is still open and the death could have been an accident. But Finley has described police as accusing him of killing his wife, though no charges have been filed.

Laura Finley, 48, who lived with her husband in Rancho Cucamonga, California, was discovered dead at the bottom of a staircase in the Millennium Biltmore Hotel in downtown Los Angeles about 8 a.m. on October 23, according to police.

Joe Finley, who owns a spring-manufacturing business, has hired attorneys Sean Macias and Nareg Gourjian, who have represented a number of high-profile clients including Chris Brown and Scott Peterson.

Finley has described police as urging him to confess to killing his wife.

Los Angeles police declined to comment on Finley's reward offer or his assertions.

Laura Finley's relatives didn't respond to messages seeking a comment this week.

Joe Finley told CNN he had nothing to do with his wife's death.

"Absolutely not," he said. "I would never hurt a human being."

"I will never be arrested for my wife's murder. There is no chance. There's nothing that would ever link me to this crime," he added.

Finley said he was thinking of his wife when he decided to go ahead with an audition for "America's Got Talent," even though he'd just been told that she was possibly dead.

"It was a very emotional moment for me and a way for me to connect with my wife." Finley said.

The couple had checked into the hotel October 22 because Joe Finley was going to try out for the television talent show the next morning, he said.

After partying that evening, Laura Finley left the room to get some ice, and at about 3 a.m., "she came back and I was in bed and she said, 'You wouldn't believe what happened at the ice machine.' Then she walked into the bathroom and started a bath, and I fell asleep," Finley said.

He said he never asked what happened at the ice machine because he was falling asleep and didn't think it was a big deal.

When he awoke at 6:30 a.m., his wife was gone, he said.

At 11 a.m., two Los Angeles police detectives told him that his wife may have been found dead, and police were about to take him to the station when an "America's Got Talent" producer stopped them as they were walking out of the hotel, Finley said.

The producer wanted Finley to audition for the show, Finley said.

"He said, 'In fact, if you want to go in right now, we'll let you go in right now,' and I thought of Laura," Finley said. "I thought, 'I'm gonna go in there, I'm going to be as brave and courageous as I possible can for Laura,' and so the police escorted me in there."

Finley said he chose a song that he used to sing to his wife.

"I got through almost to the end, and I broke, and I just dropped my head and I took my sunglasses off, and I said, 'I'm sorry, I can't do this. That's the best I can do,' " Finley said.

The show's production company declined to comment about Finley's audition.

At the police station, detectives questioned Finley for hours about his wife's death, and they urged him to confess to killing his wife, Finley said.

"They were screaming at me," he told CNN.

Finley said he was arrested for drug possession at the time, but as of Wednesday, Gourjian, Finley's attorney, said no charges had been filed.

Finley said people shouldn't jump to any conclusions about him just because he auditioned for the show.

"To judge somebody in this position is just wrong. People should just wait, wait for the facts to come out," he said.