Vanesa Tapia Zavala and Candace Marie Brito Ordered to Stand Trial for Kim Pham's Murder
See the update on page two about Judge Thomas Borris ordering Candace Marie Brito and Vanesa Tapia Zavala to stand trial for Kim Pham's murder.
ORIGINAL POST, FEB. 11, 7:37 A.M.: A preliminary hearing tied to the fatal beating of Kim Pham outside the Crosby nightclub in downtown Santa Ana last month came to an abrupt halt Monday when a detective testified she posed as a jail inmate, wore a wire and was planted in the cell of one of the accused killers.
Vanesa Tapia Zavala
Santa Ana Police Detective Patricia Navarro said she talked about the case with Vanesa Tapia Zavala, even though the second-degree-murder defendant had previously invoked her right to have an attorney. Navarro's disclosure temporarily halted the hearing in Westminster that's meant to determine whether there is enough evidence to put 25-year-old Zavala and Candace Marie Brito, 27, on trial for the beating death of 23-year-old Annie Hung "Kim" Pham.
This came on the heels of a bombshell deposition of a Santa Ana police detective who said, under sworn testimony, that Pham "was the reason for the fight."
According to Detective Roland Andrade, Pham was the one who bumped into the group of friends that included Brito and Zavala. After their friend sarcastically told Pham, "Excuse me," Pham started cussing them out. After cooler heads tried to prevail, the scene escalated, which led to the beating that would kill Pham and have Brito and Zavala awaiting murder charges.
The momentary stop of Navarro's testimony for the prosecution caused attorneys for both sides to meet privately with the judge. After the closed-door discussion, the police detective was excused for the day and told return to court at 9 this morning.
Candace Marie Brito
Before the break, Navarro had testified that a witness identified only as "Patrick" said Zavala stood by, "waiting to get her hits in," while Pham was being attacked by two other assailants, according to courtroom reports by City News Service and KNBC4 News.
Patrick, who did not know Pham, told investigators he saw the women arguing with Pham before a "female Hispanic" punched Pham 10 times, Navarro testified. Pham fell to the ground, attempting to punch back, the detective added.
Navarro said Patrick picked Zavala and a third woman police want to speak with out of a photo lineup, but he did not select the image of Brito.
Three of Pham's friends told Santa Ana Police Officer Gerardo Corona, who was among the first on the scene, that a woman "bumped" into Pham outside the nightclub, sparking an argument. The woman told Pham, "Watch where you're going" before things turned physical, Corona testified.
Michael Molfetta, who represents Brito, has previously said Pham started the melee.
Pham sustained at least five blows to the head and died when the brain swelled and blood vessels burst all over her brain, testified Dr. Etoi Davenport, who performed the autopsy. Pressed by defense attorneys on the fatal blow, Davenport replied Pham could have died because of a punch or kick or by hitting her head when she fell.
See updates on page two.