By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
But he committed his most heinous act on Ly. At 8 p.m. on Jan. 28, 1996, Lindberg took Domenic Michael Christopher, a Kmart co-worker, to his apartment after they finished a shift that consisted largely of watching the Super Bowl on television in the store’s break room. According to his own writings, Lindberg hoped to mold the impressionable 17-year-old, who liked karate and hadn’t been in trouble before, into his protégé. They smoked pot, talked about “robbery and shit like that” and left on foot—Lindberg carrying a butcher knife he’d stolen from his grandmother’s kitchen, according to police files. They stopped for dinner at Jack in the Box, and then walked the streets searching for a victim. At one point, they encountered a group of teenagers standing in a front yard, attempted to start a fight, failed and moved on.
Minutes later, they found and trapped the unsuspecting Ly, whose last seven minutes of life were the stuff of horror flicks. Lindberg called him a “Jap,” demanded his car keys, cursed him, punched him, stomped on his head, kicked his face, slashed his throat and stabbed him 22 times—in part, to celebrate a victory earlier that evening by what Lindberg hailed as “America’s team,” the Dallas Cowboys.
Among Ly’s final words were “What the fuck?”
“I thought [Lindberg] was a cool guy, you know, cool. He’s funny. He is . . . He’s cool, you know what I mean? . . . If I’d known he was psycho, I wouldn’t have hung with him.”
—Christopher to police a month after the murder
Law-enforcement officials say Lindberg was the first person Orange County sent to San Quentin State Prison’s death row under California’s hate-crime statute. Christopher, his now-remorseful accomplice, is serving a sentence of 25 years to life and is eligible to request parole in 2023.
Lindberg’s days are filled with exercising, writing pen pals, creating art, playing chess, daydreaming about Nordic lore and writing satanic poems that mock Ly’s death. Thanks to an automatic appeal of every death-penalty case, he’s also waiting for word from California’s highest court on the pending hate-crime question. The answer could remove him from death row.
During supreme court oral arguments in June, deputy state public defender Ronald F. Turner pleaded Lindberg’s case. He told Chief Justice Ronald George and six associate justices that his client’s death-penalty punishment must be overturned. Turner argued that two special circumstances the jury found to be true—that the murder was committed during the commission of an attempted robbery and that Ly’s race was a key factor in the crime—were, in fact, false.
“We’re not dealing with a rational individual here,” said Turner. “This was just a thrill kill, a bravado murder . . . motivated by male testosterone and nothing else.”
In a February 2005 letter to the Weekly, Lindberg echoed Turner’s assertion. “[The Orange County district attorney’s office] blew up the white-supremacist issue,” he wrote. “I’m not like that. I did have some things [reading materials] but it was something I had in prison in Missouri and I only viewed it with passing interest long ago.”
Oh, I killed a Jap a while ago. I stabbed him to death at Tustin High School. I walked up to him. Domenic was with me and I seen this guy Rollerblading and I had a knife. We walked in the tennis court where he was. I walked up to him. Domenic was right there. I walked right up to him and he was scared. I looked at him and said, “Oh, I thought I knew you,” and he got all happy that he wasn’t gonna get jumped. Then I hit him with one of my motherfuckers and he fell to the ground and he said in a very low voice, “What the fuck?” and “You can have whatever I got. I have nothing—only a key. You can have it.” Then I said, “You got a car.” Oh, I pulled the knife out—a butcher’s knife and he said, “No!” Then I put the knife to his throat and asked him, “Do you have a car?” And he grabbed my hand that I had the knife and looked at me, trying to get a description of me, so I stomped on his head three times and each times said, “Stop looking at me.” Then he was kinda knocked out. Dazzed. Then I stabbed him in the side about 7 or 8 times. He rolled over a little, so I stabbed his back about 18 or 19 times. Then he layed flat and I slit one side of his throat on his jugular vein. Oh, the sounds the guy was making were like “uhhhhh.” Then Domenic said, “Do it again,” and I said, “I already did, dude,” so I cut his other jugular vein and Domenic said, “Kill him? . . . Do it again.” I said, “He’s already dead.” Domenic said, “Stab him in the heart.” So I stabbed him about 20 to 21 times in the heart . . . He was dying just then, taking in some bloody gasps of air so I nudged his face with my shoe a few times. Then I told Domenic to kick him, so he kicked the fuck out of his face and he still has blood on his shoes all over [smiley face]. Then I ditched the knife after whipping it clean on to the side of the 5 freeway [smiley face]. Here’s the clippings from the newspaper and we were on all the news channels. [I’m] having a ball in Tustin. Wish you were here.
—Lindberg in a letter to his cousin