Killer's Friend Sought Blame, Letter Shows

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Writing that "life just ain't fair," an 18-year-old convicted for his role in the slaying of Thien Minh Ly suggested in a letter that he alone take the blame, to spare his friend, Ly's murderer, the death penalty.

"I don't see why both of us should go down for this," Domenic M. Christopher wrote in a two-page letter in June to Gunner Lindberg, 22, while both men were being held at Orange County Jail. "Since I've already been found guilty, I should just take the rap for it all. They can't sentence me to anything more. You still have a chance."

In May, Christopher was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison for the murder. On Thursday, a jury recommended that Lindberg, who stabbed Ly to death because of his race, be executed. It was Orange County's first capital murder case involving a hate crime.

Tustin police sent the letter to the Department of Corrections because they believe it reveals Christopher as "the killer that he is," wrote Capt. Fred Wakefield.

"We hope this letter will aid you in making a thorough evaluation of Mr. Christopher and the state prison institution best suited for this extremely dangerous individual," Wakefield wrote.

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Lindberg and Christopher encountered Ly, 24, in January 1996, as Ly was practicing in-line skating on an unlit tennis court at Tustin High School. Lindberg stabbed Ly at least 50 times, while Christopher cheered him on. Christopher was accused of helping trap the victim, them kicking him in the head as he took his final breaths.

Tustin Police Investigator Tom Tarpley said Friday that Christopher "came to court looking like he had just stepped off the set of [television program 'Beverly Hills] 90210' and had "tried to portray himself as someone who got caught up in Gunner Lindberg's spell, and he testified to that. Here we have him writing a letter that clearly shows that's not the case."

Ironically, it was a letter that Lindberg wrote to his cousin, detailing the crime, that led to the pair's arrest at the Tustin apartment they shared.

"That letter got me life," wrote Christopher, who suggested that Lindberg have the relatives who gave the letter to authorities "talked to. You know what I mean?"

Tarpley said that some of the relatives in the case who testified against Lindberg could be in danger. The cousin, Walter Ray Dulaney, claimed he had been shot by someone in April because of his connection to the case.

"I expect at some time in the future there will be attempts made on these people's lives," the investigator said.

In his letter, Christopher wrote that he still cared about Lindberg and suggested that he would try to convince Deputy Dist. Atty. Debbie Lloyd, who prosecuted both cases, that he alone had killed Ly.

"I'll do what I can to get that [expletive] D.A. to believe I did it," he wrote.

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Wakefield noted that the envelope lists the sender's name as "Damien," the name of the central character in the 1976 movie "The Omen." The return address is "187 REDRUM Way." "187" is the California Penal Code Section for murder, while "redrum" is "murder" spelled backward. The ZIP Code in the letter is O6660. Three sixes are associated with devil worship.

The first page of the letter begins with the greeting "2/11 Insane Loc." 211 was the name of the defendants' white supremacist gang, and Insane Loc was Lindberg's gang moniker. Christopher signed the letter "Insane Loc II," which he noted afterward was the name Lindberg had given him.

Prosecutor Lloyd declined to comment on the letter. Christopher's attorney, Dennis McNerney, could not be reached for comment.

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