Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

St. Petersburg strangler gets life sentence

Long Phi Le had been scheduled to go to trial Tuesday, charged with murdering a 63-year-old St. Petersburg man he had a history of stealing from.

Instead, he is going to prison for the rest of his life.

Le, 22, was sentenced after pleading guilty to murder on Friday. By doing so, he avoided a possible death sentence.

He was something of a neighborhood bully in St. Petersburg's Vietnamese community. Le had a habit of stealing a car belonging to Luyen Chi Pham, according to court records. He told one friend he stole the man's car "just for fun." He told another he was planning to tie the man up in a future robbery.

"He was tormenting the older gentleman," Assistant State Attorney Susan St. John said.

But this case went beyond robbery.

Pham was discovered strangled in his home in 2007, after he failed to show up for work. Police found Le's fingerprints on Pham's 1988 Honda Accord. They also found Pham's car keys in Le's pocket when they arrested him. And Le confessed to police.

A man named Brandon Thornhill said in court records that Le had spoken to a mutual friend of theirs before the killing, and the friend had told him of Le's plans: "Basically he said he's going to tie the guy up this time and rob him in front of his face."

But Le, a gang member nicknamed "Ghost," never mentioned anything about murder.

The Pinellas-Pasco Public Defender's Office last year filed a motion seeking to throw out the confession Le made to St. Petersburg police because at one point he was asked if he wanted to talk to them and he said no. But he later said he did want to speak.

Judge Nancy Moate Ley denied the request to throw out the confession, saying the St. Petersburg detective "was not threatening, coercing or attempting to change the defendant's mind."

Curtis Krueger can be reached at (727) 893-8232 or

St. Petersburg strangler gets life sentence 06/01/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 1, 2010 10:16pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Shooting sends man to hospital in St. Pete


    ST. PETERSBURG — Police were investigating a shooting that occurred around 4:40 p.m. on Tuesday and sent a man to the hospital.

  2. Police: Man tries to lure child with puppy in Polk County


    Times staff

    HAINES CITY — A man was arrested Sunday after he tried to entice a young girl into his camper to view a puppy, according to police.

    Dale Collins, 63, faces a charge of luring or enticing a child under the age of 12. [Photo courtesy of the Polk County Sheriff's Office]
  3. Editorial: Coming together to reduce car thefts


    The simple, knee-jerk response to the juvenile car theft epidemic in Pinellas County would be to crack down on offenders with an increased police presence and stiffer sentences. Thankfully, local community leaders did not stop there. As detailed in a recent Tampa Bay Times follow-up to its 
As detailed in a recent Tampa Bay Times follow-up to its "Hot Wheels" investigation into youth car thefts, a variety of ideas from multiple directions increases the odds of actually solving the cause and not just treating the symptoms.

  4. Editorial: Floridians' health care now at risk in Washington


    The health care for millions of Floridians is now at risk. The U.S. Senate's dramatic vote Tuesday to begin debate on repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act with no idea what will happen is a dangerous gamble with American lives and the national economy. Barring an unexpected bipartisan compromise, a handful of …

    Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., dramatically returned to the Senate for the first time since his brain cancer was diagnosed and cast the key vote that enabled Vice President Mike Pence to break the 50-50 tie and allow the health care debate to proceed.
  5. Former Marine from Florida dies fighting for Kurdish militia

    ORLANDO — A former Marine who secretly traveled to Syria earlier this year to battle the Islamic State was killed while fighting for a Kurdish militia, his father said Tuesday.

    David Taylor, with his father David Taylor Sr., was killed earlier this month in Syria while fighting for a Kurdish militia.