Case # 12ZF0154
Date: February 3, 2017
MAN SENTENCED TO 50 YEARS TO LIFE IN STATE PRISON FOR MURDER OF FORMER GIRLFRIEND DURING CONFRONTATION AFTER LISTENING TO GUNS N’ ROSES SONG
SANTA ANA, Calif. – A man was sentenced to 50 years to life in state prison today of the murder of his former girlfriend during a confrontation after listening to a Guns N’ Roses song. Thomas Michael Wilhelm, 53, Costa Mesa, was found guilty by a jury on Nov. 30, 2016, of one felony count of first-degree murder with a sentencing enhancement for the personal discharge of a firearm causing death.
At approximately 6:25 p.m. on July 8, 2012, Wilhelm entered a neighbor’s home on Redwood Avenue in Costa Mesa and stole a handgun. The defendant returned to his own home to kill his former girlfriend and business partner of three years, 45-year-old Christine Murray. The victim sent text messages to a friend eleven minutes before her murder stating Wilhelm was drinking alcohol, loudly playing and singing along to a Guns N’ Roses song with the lyrics, “I used to love her, but I had to kill her.” Wilhelm then entered the victim’s bedroom, chased her into the bathroom, pulled out the firearm, and shot the victim six times. Since he had run out of ammunition, Wilhelm returned to his neighbor’s home, stole a shotgun, and fired one round into the ground as he unsuccessfully attempted to shoot himself.
Costa Mesa Police Department (CMPD) officers arrived at the defendant’s home minutes after the initial shooting in response to third party 911 calls. Officers heard the shotgun discharge in Wilhelm’s neighbor’s back yard when they arrived, and they made entry into the victim’s residence. They found Murray in her bedroom, unconscious with multiple gunshot wounds to her chest. CMPD officers arrested the defendant and recovered the firearms. The victim was rushed to Western Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead.
At Wilhelm’s sentencing letters containing victim impact statements were delivered to the court pursuant to Marsy’s Law.
The victim’s oldest son wrote about his mother and how he and his siblings no longer have their mother. He stated in part, “One of the most devastating feelings I’ve ever felt in my life, is when you forget, just for a minute that she’s gone, and you pick up the phone to call them and remember in that instant. I still struggle every day not to let it get me down. I still have break downs. I still stumble and fall without her in my life. I still miss her. I still wish I could get home and tell her about my day. I lost a piece of the person that I am. I can do my best to hold the rest of the pieces together, but I can never be the same person I was before.”
The victim’s former husband also wrote on behalf of the victim’s children. He wrote about how difficult the children’s lives have been after their mother’s murder and how difficult it was for him to tell the youngest child about his mother’s death. He stated in part, “I would say that the defendant’s actions created permanent, lifelong outcomes for Christine’s children. Their chance to develop a relationship with, or for that matter, even get to know their mother, has been taken, even stolen from them, just as Christine’s life was taken from her. The defendant’s children still have the opportunity to at least communicate in some fashion with their father, but for my children, that option was taken from them by him.”
Senior Deputy District Attorney Jim Mendelson of the Homicide Unit prosecuted this case.