Tragedy befell the Vietnamese community on Jan 29, 1996, when Thien Minh Ly, a 24-year old Vietnamese man and former graduate of UCLA, was murdered while rollerblading in his Tustin hometown high school tennis court. Ly was found lying in a pool of blood the following morning by a janitor, maimed by an excessive number of stabbing wounds to various parts of his body, as well as slashing wounds to his throat.
In the immediate aftermath of his death, friends, family, and acquaintances could not fathom the senselessness of the crime that ended Ly’s life. All who knew him remembered him with love, respect, and admiration. A man of exemplary integrity, intelligence, confidence and spirit, Ly embodied the model Vietnamese American.
He was a dutiful and loving son to his parents, a beloved older brother to his younger siblings, and a friend that one could always count on in times of need. He was an academic in endless pursuit of knowledge: at UCLA, he obtained both an English and a Biology degree in four years, had just completed a Master’s in Physiology and Biophysics at Georgetown, and was contemplating the study of Law just before his death. While at UCLA, Thien was a leader. He wholeheartedly dedicated himself to the UCLA Vietnamese Students’ Association (VSA) as VSA’s Culture Night Director, VSA’s newsletter editor, and finally, at the height of his VSA involvement, as VSA President ’92-’93.
Hundreds attended the candlelight vigil held for him the same week he was murdered. An article about his death hangs in the UCLA English counseling office.
Flowers from all over the VN community overflowed the mortuary during his viewing and funeral. Tears flowed endlessly for Thien; his was a loss mourned by all.
It was not until March 2, 1996 that the mystery surrounding Ly’s murder ended. That day, police arrested Gunner Lindberg, age 21, and Dominic Christopher, age 17, after discovering a letter that Lindberg had written to a former prison inmate in New Mexico. The letter contained graphic details about the murder, as well as the writer’s apparent insoucience about the whole incident. Sandwiched between birthday plans, news about a friend’s baby, and talk about the need for a new tattoo was this boastful account of what happened the night of Jan 29th:
“Oh I killed a jap a while ago I stabbed him to Death at Tustin High school I walked up to him Dominic was with me and I seen this guy Roller blading and I had a knife.
WE walk in the tennis court where he was I walked up to him. Dominic 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 happy that he wasn’t gona get jumped. Then I hit him…”
“I pulled the knife out a butcher knife and he said ‘no’ then I put the knife to his throught and asked him Do you have a car.
And he grabed my hand that I had the knife in and looked at me, trying to get a description of me so I stomped on his head 3 times and each time said ‘Stop loooking 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 out 18 or 19 times then he layed flat and I slit one side of his throught on his jugular vain. Oh, the sounds the guy was making were like Uhhh. then Dominic said ‘do it again ‘ and I said ‘I already Did. Dude. “Ya, Do it again’ so I cut his other juggular vain, and Dominic said “Kill him Do it again’ and I said ‘he’s already Dead’ Dominic Said ‘Stab him in the heart’ So I stabbed him about 20 or 21 times in the heart..
“Then I wanted to go back and look, so we Did and he was dieing just then taking in some bloody gasps of air so I nidged his face with my shoe a few times, then i told Dominic to kick him, so he kicked the f— out of .