D.A.: Man killed partner over business dispute

Thomas Wilhelm got drunk, took pills and sang along to Guns N Roses before shooting victim in C.M., prosecutors say in court papers. He wanted to keep sprinkler business name.

November 27, 2012|By Lauren Williams

A Costa Mesa man reportedly drank cherry vodka and took prescription pills while singing along to a Guns N Roses song before he shot and killed his business partner, prosecutors allege in court documents.

Thomas Michael Wilhelm, 48, reportedly belted out the lyrics "I used to love her but I had to kill her" from the song, "Used to Love Her," in his bedroom before visiting his neighbor and allegedly stealing a handgun.

That gun was used to shoot Christine Murray, 45, according to a transcript of the grand jury indictment obtained by the Daily Pilot.

An earlier version of this story had the incorrect age for Christine Murray.

Murray and Wilhelm had once dated but at the time of the alleged crime were only business partners.

The transcript sheds light on the July 8 shooting of Murray, who lived with Wilhelm at a home at 2981 Redwood Ave. with her 8-year-old son, according to the transcript.


A possible motive was that Wilhelm felt Murray tried to take over the lawn sprinkler business that bore his name — a point of pride for Wilhelm, according to Senior Deputy District Attorney Jim Mendelson.

"A lot of the issue had to do with the business name, the Wilhelm business name," Mendelson told the Orange County grand jury. "Mr. Wilhelm took great pride in the Wilhelm sprinkler name — his name on the business."

On the day Murray was killed, she and Wilhelm fought over ownership of the sprinkler company, and she told him they could talk about business when he was sober, to which he replied, "Basically, that will be never," Mendelson said.

"The one thing that you are going to hear about Mr. Wilhelm is his business endeavors were severely hampered because he had a real substance abuse problem for multiple types of substances and alcohol," Mendelson said.

Before Murray met Wilhelm about three years ago, Wilhelm owned the business with a former girlfriend and split the business with her when they parted ways.

Eventually, Murray and the former girlfriend would forge a bond over Wilhelm's behavior. The former girlfriend heard from Murray minutes before she was killed, receiving a text message from her that read:

"He's drunk, locked in his room, listening to his oldies music, singing at the top of his lungs, hammered as hell, says we will talk soon. I told him when he is sober. Says he doesn't intend to ever be. Good then I don't need to change your name, you won't need it."

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