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Death penalty upheld in O.C. hate killing

State high court rules in the slaying of a Vietnamese American.

August 30, 2008|Mike Anton | Times Staff Writer

The California Supreme Court has upheld the death penalty for a self-proclaimed white supremacist from Orange County who was the first person in the state condemned to die for a racially motivated murder.

Gunner Lindberg, 33, was convicted in the 1996 slaying of Thien Minh Ly, 24, who was stabbed more than 50 times and had his throat slashed.

Lindberg was convicted in Orange County Superior Court of first-degree murder with a special circumstance that the crime was based on the victim's race.

Lindberg's attorney sought to have the special circumstance overturned on appeal because of lack of evidence.

But the state high court ruled Thursday that "the evidence overwhelmingly showed that the defendant was a racist who regarded nonwhites as subhuman and who, by his own admission, callously murdered victim Ly for the 'racial movement.' "

Ly was in-line skating on a tennis court at Tustin High School when he was attacked by Lindberg and an accomplice.

In an obscenity-laced letter to a cousin full of misspellings and grammatical errors, Lindberg nonchalantly wrote, using an epithet: "Oh, I killed a . . . a while ago."

"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 throught on his jugular vain," Lindberg wrote. "Oh, the sounds the guy was making were like uhhh . . ."

Authorities also found racist materials, including anti-Semitic paraphernalia, in Lindberg's Tustin apartment.

During his trial, prosecutors said, Lindberg wore the same Dallas Cowboys jersey to court that he wore the day he killed Ly.

Ly was a graduate of UCLA and Georgetown University whose goal was to become U.S. ambassador to Vietnam.

During the trial, his family described him as the "backbone and pillar" of the family and said they had visited the high school tennis court to try to imagine what Ly's final moment must have been like.

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mike.anton@latimes.com

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