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Man allegedly steals gun from neighbor to kill business partner

Thomas Michael WilhelmA Costa Mesa man charged with killing his ex-girlfriend, who was his business partner, allegedly stole the murder weapon from his neighbor.

That next-door neighbor, John "Jack" Michael, 79, said he and suspect Thomas Michael Wilhelm, 48, were good friends -- and kept ladders on either side of the fence of their homes in the 2900 block of Redwood Avenue so they could easily visit each other.

On Sunday, about 15 to 20 minutes before gunshots rang out, Michael said an agitated Wilhelm paid him a visit in his workshop.

According to Michael, Wilhelm said he planned to move away because of increased tension with business partner Christian Marie Murray, 45, the Daily Pilot reported.

During the visit, Wilhelm excused himself, saying he had to use the restroom, Michael said.

Instead, Michael said Wilhelm went to an upper level of the shop and stole a pistol.

Minutes later, Michael said he heard gunshots, and then through his kitchen window saw Wilhelm climb into his yard. Wilhelm returned to the workshop, taking a shotgun, according to Michael.

Police said Wilhelm tried to commit suicide using a shotgun. Michael said he understands the shotgun went off when Wilhelm tripped and he didn't know how to reload the gun.

Police say Wilhelm, shot and killed Murray in the bedroom of the home on Redwood Avenue. She was pronounced dead at Western Medical Center in Santa Ana.

The main source of the fighting between Murray and Wilhelm was a sprinkler business they shared that she was pushing him out of, according to Michael.

"I know it was getting volatile, but I didn't really think it would go that far," he said. "It was kind of a last straw kind of thing."

On Wednesday, a man later identified as one of Murray's ex-husbands was at the home, and would only say that Murray left behind three children.


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-- Lauren Williams, Times Community News

Photo: Thomas Michael Wilhelm.  Credit: Costa Mesa Police Department

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