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. Entrance lanes close on eastbound I-4 in Plant City following semi crash


    An eastbound entrance lane to Interstate 4 is blocked Tuesday morning following a semi crash, according to broadcast reports.

  2. Gov. Rick Scott could soon be the all-time king of line-item veto


    2016: $256,144,027

    2015: $461,387,164

    2014: $68,850,121

    2013: $367,950,394

    2012: $142,752,177

    2011: $615,347,550

    Only once has Scott used the line-item veto sparingly. That was in 2014, the year he ran for re-election, when he removed a paltry $69 million from the budget.

    Gov. Rick Scott waves a veto pen at The Villages in 2011.
  3. Rays morning after: An up-and down day for Jose De Leon


    Rays RHP Jose De Leon had a busy Monday - getting called up to join the Rays for the first time and making his way from Pawtucket, R.I., to Boston and the flying to Texas, working 2 2/3 eventful innings to get the W in the 10-8 victory over the Rangers, and then getting optioned back to Triple-A.

    Jose De Leon follows through in the sixth inning against the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Park in Arlington, Texas, on May 29, 2017.
  4. Resignation of communications director Dubke could signal more changes within White House staff


    WASHINGTON — Mike Dubke has resigned as White House communications director, a senior administration official confirmed Tuesday, in the first of what could be a series of changes to President Trump's senior staff amid the growing Russia scandal.

    President Donald Trump speaks at the Memorial Amphitheater in Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., Monday, May 29, 2017, during a Memorial Day ceremony. [Associated Press]
  5. Trump pays somber tribute to fallen troops on Memorial Day


    ARLINGTON, Va. — President Donald Trump expressed the nation's "boundless" gratitude for the ultimate sacrifice paid by Americans defending the United States, dedicating his first Memorial Day address as commander in chief to a top Cabinet secretary and two other families who lost loved ones.

    Brittany Jacobs, left, watches as her 6-year-old son Christian Jacobs meets President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence in Section 60 of Arlington National Cemetery, Monday, May 29, 2017, in Arlington, Va. Jacobs father, Marine Sgt. Christopher Jacobs, was killed in 2011. [Associated Press]