A sprinker installer who was apparently forced out of his own company by his live-in girlfriend faces arraignment today after a grand jury indictment for allegedly breaking into a next-door neighbor's home, stealing a handgun and using it to shoot his former lover to death. Thomas Michael Wilhelm, 48, of Costa Mesa, could get 50 years to life in state prison if he is convicted of murdering 45-year-old Christian Marie Murray.
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Costa Mesa Police received a call the evening of July 9 about a man with a gun inside a home in the 2900 block of Redwood Avenue. When officers rolled up, a gunshot was heard and Murray was later found clinging to life inside. After treatment by paramedics for a gunshot wound to the chest, she was taken to a local hospital but didn't make it.
Back at the Redwood home, there were initial reports Wilhelm was standing in the backyard holding a small caliber handgun and that he may have planned to take his own life. But, according to an Orange County District Attorney's office statement, police recovered the gun and arrested Wilhelm as he was walking back to his house n the quiet neighborhood next to a community park.
Investigators claim Wilhelm and his girlfriend of three years had been arguing for the past two over the company he founded. State records indicate Murray was listed as the chief financial officer of Tom Wilhelm Sprinkler Co. Inc. when the business was incorporated on June 30. Other than in the name of the company, Wilhelm was not mentioned anywhere on the application.
The "About Us" page on the Tom Wilhelm Sprinkler Co. website included the following disclaimer:
Due to changes within the corporate structure Tom Wilhelm is not longer associated with this company. If he shows up at your door to do work under this company name please notify us immediately as he is an unlicensed contractor and no longer affiliated with this company in any way.
On the "Contact Us" page, you'll find these comments were left:
Tom's company has been taken over by a drug addict and an ex-employee. Tom Wilhelm is a wonderful, experienced man, and in an attempt to ruin his life and business this woman is trying to cut him out of his own company. Please do not believe the lies.
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Tom Wilhelm is the name behind this company. He IS THE ONE WITH THE 30 YEARS OF EXPERIENCE. The person claiming this website is a fraud. And a drug addict using the name of Tom and a worker that Tom fired. Call Tom directly for the quality service you expect at 714-[number withheld].
The grand jury indicted Wilhelm Halloween day on one felony count of murder with a sentencing enhancement for the personal discharge of a firearm causing death. This morning's hearing is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. in Santa Ana.