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Gun used in killing allegedly stolen

Neighbor said minutes before shooting, Thomas Wilhelm visited him and seemed agitated.

July 11, 2012|By Lauren Williams

As children rode their bikes to the sound of leaf blowers on Wednesday, Redwood Avenue in Costa Mesa showed few signs that a neighbor had been killed there three days earlier.

A child's smiley-faced basketball sat in the front yard, while a skull-and-crossbones doormat rested at the front door of the small house where police say Thomas Michael Wilhelm, 48, shot his former girlfriend and business partner, Christian Marie Murray, 45.


FOR THE RECORD:
An earlier version of the headline to this story should have attributed the accusation that Wilhelm stole the gun to his neighbor John Michael.

Wilhelm's arraignment has been moved to July 25. He faces murder and felony firearm charges, according to court documents.

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Next-door neighbor John "Jack" Michael, 79, said Wilhelm stole the gun he allegedly used to shoot Murray several times in the chest from him.

Police discovered Murray in a bedroom of the home she shared with Wilhelm in the 2900 block of Redwood. She was pronounced dead at Western Medical Center in Santa Ana.

Michael said he and Wilhelm were good friends, going so far as to keep ladders on either side of the fence so they could easily visit each other.

On Sunday, about 15 or 20 minutes before gunshots rang out, Wilhelm, who seemed agitated, visited Michael in the workshop adjacent to his house, he said.

According to Michael, Wilhelm said that he planned to move away because of increased tension with Murray.

During the visit, Wilhelm excused himself, saying he had to use the restroom, Michael said.

Instead, Wilhelm went to an upper level of the shop and stole a pistol, Michael said.

Minutes later Michael said he heard gunshots, and then through his kitchen window saw Wilhelm climb into his yard. Wilhelm returned to the workshop, taking a shotgun, according to Michael.

Police said Wilhelm tried to commit suicide using a shotgun. Michael said he understands the shotgun went off when Wilhelm tripped and he didn't know how to reload the gun.

The main source of the fighting between Murray and Wilhelm was a sprinkler business they shared that she was pushing him out of, according to Michael.

"I know it was getting volatile, but I didn't really think it would go that far," he said. "It was kind of a last straw kind of thing."

Court documents also show tension between the former couple.

One of her ex-husbands, Peter Madsen, in a custody battle over their 8-year-old son, said Murray's home life was "unstable."

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