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Costa Mesa man sentenced to 50 years to life for killing his girlfriend

A Costa Mesa man was sentenced Friday to 50 years to life in prison for shooting his live-in girlfriend to death with a gun he stole from a neighbor.

Thomas Michael Wilhelm, 53, was drunk on cherry vodka and under the influence of prescription pills on July 8, 2012, when he shot Christine Marie Murray, 45, his girlfriend and business partner, multiple times in their home, according to a transcript of Wilhelm’s grand-jury indictment.

A jury in November found Wilhelm guilty of one count of first-degree murder with a sentencing enhancement for personal discharge of a firearm causing death, according to court records.

Judge Thomas Goethals handed down the sentence Friday in Orange County Superior Court.

Prosecutors said Wilhelm walked to a neighbor’s home on Redwood Avenue and stole a handgun before returning home and firing six shots at Murray. Murray sent text messages to a friend 11 minutes before she was killed that said Wilhelm was intoxicated and singing along to the Guns N’ Roses song “Used to Love Her,” which features the lyrics “I used to love her, but I had to kill her.”

When police arrived minutes after the shooting, they found Murray unconscious in the bedroom with several gunshot wounds to her chest. She was taken to a hospital, where she was pronounced dead.

Authorities said Wilhelm and Murray’s three-year relationship faltered during the two years before her killing after he brought her in as a partner in his business, Wilhelm Sprinkler Co. According to Wilhelm’s grand-jury indictment, he had a history of drug and alcohol abuse and Murray had begun to question his abilities as a business owner.

The defense argued that Wilhelm suffered from mental health issues, was extremely emotional after the couple’s personal and business relationship soured and acted impulsively because he was drunk.

hannah.fry@latimes.com

Twitter: @HannahFryTCN


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