Air freshener set near murdered Burlingame man's body

A friendship that brewed at a Burlingame bar quickly dissolved into murder after the two barflies decided to become roommates, prosecutors said Tuesday.

Lawrence Arthur Hoffman, 64, who worked for a Burlingame CVS pharmacy, was arraigned in court Monday on charges that he fatally beat drinking pal and roommate Joe Cosentino, 70, last week.

San Mateo County prosecutors have since revealed additional sordid details about the killing.

Burlingame police found Cosentino’s body in an apartment in the 1900 block of Garden Drive around 3 p.m. Thursday. Cops went to the apartment on a tip that Cosentino might have been killed. Police believe he was killed Dec. 5.

Cosentino’s body was found covered in blankets, with an air freshener set out nearby, District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said.

Cosentino had been struck multiple times over the back of the head with either a hammer or mallet, said Assistant District Attorney Albert Serrato, who is prosecuting the case.

A murder weapon has not been recovered, Serrato said.

After the killing, Hoffman fled to Los Angeles, prosecutors said. He told a pal about the slaying, complaining that Cosentino had been verbally provoking him for weeks, police said. That acquaintance called police.

Hoffman and Cosentino became friends at a neighborhood bar, according to Serrato. Hoffman needed a place to stay, and Cosentino offered his apartment. But they made better drinking buddies than roommates, Serrato said. Hoffman and Cosentino fought over cleanliness and smoking habits, among other issues, Serrato said. They had been living together for three months when Cosentino was killed, Serrato said.

Investigators located Hoffman by tracking his cellphone, Wagstaffe said. He was arrested Thursday in a hotel room in Glendale on suspicion of murder, police said.

It was the first homicide in Burlingame since 2007, when a man was gunned down on U.S. Highway 101.

Hoffman remains in custody on no-bail status. He is scheduled to enter a plea Dec. 20, Serrato said.

maldax@sfexaminer.com

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