The Case Against The Women Accused Of Killing Kim Pham
This past week has given way to a number of interesting developments in the case against Vanesa Tapia Zavala and Candace Marie Brito, who are accused of beating Annie Hung "Kim" Pham to death outside of a Santa Ana nightclub. The two days of testimony that led to Zavala and Brito being ordered to stand trial seemed to be full of dramatic reveals and "she said, she said" moments that paint a muddled picture of what happened outside of the now-closed Crosby.
Here are some main events that could be become important in their upcoming trial:
- The surprise testimony of Santa Ana Police detective Patricia Navarro. Navarro claimed that she posed as a fellow inmate and wore a wire in order to glean information from Zavala, the O.C. Weekly reports. Navarro's jail cell conversation came after Zavala invoked her right to an attorney. Naturally, this caused quite the stir in the proceedings, but only a single snippet of Navarro's recording was allowed to be read to the courtroom crowd. That snippet was of Zavala telling the undercover Navarro that Pham hit her first and Zavala was defending herself.
- Brito's defense attorney, Michael Molfetta, has been saying that Pham was not only active in the fight, but may have started it. Detective Roland Andrade testified that the fight started when Pham bumped into another person in Brito and Zavala's group. When that person sarcastically said, "Excuse me," Pham allegedly started cussing her out and had to be restrained by her friends, the L.A. Times reports. Pham then allegedly broke free, where the AP says that she took a swing and hit Zavala instead, escalating the fight. A video also shows Pham and a third person, identified as Amelia Avila, fighting on the ground. This goes directly against initial claims by witnesses that the fight started over an accidental photobomb. Avila has lawyered up and has not spoken to anyone yet.
- A witness, Darwin Arayata, was in front of the Crosby and recorded the fight on his cell phone, KPCC reports. Arayata claims Pham started fighting with Avila and Zavala, with Brito raising her leg to kick (though Arayata didn't see it land). Arayata claimed that Pham said, "Why are you talking shit?" before throwing a punch. Arayata claims to have tried to break up the fight, but was unsuccessful. Earlier, Prosecutor Troy Pino said that two security guards and "about 10-15 bystanders" tried to break up the fight.
- Pino is arguing that the notion of who started the fight is irrelevant. "It doesn't matter who was the initial aggressor," Pino said. "The bottom line is she's on the ground defenseless as these two defendants kick her in the head. And that's what killed her."
- A chilling 911 recording from the night of Pham's death has surfaced, shedding light on what may have happened in front of the Crosby. The woman on the phone, known only as "Priscilla," claims that there were both men and women involved in beating Pham and that Pham was "taking deep breaths in" at the time of the call. Priscilla also claimed that the security guards didn't do enough to stop them. "They didn't know what to do, they didn't know what to do," Priscilla repeated to the dispatcher. You could hear Pham's hysterical friends in the background as Priscilla relays information to the dispatcher. The entire recording, via NBC 4, is here:
- Worth noting is that at least one other person is being sought in the case besides Avila, so the scope could get wider as it progresses. Santa Ana detective Leo Rodriguez was questioned by Kenneth Reed, Zavala's attorney, about the identity of a man in another cell phone video who looked to be involved in the fight. Rodriguez said he was still reviewing the video and trying to figure out everyone's identity, according to KPCC.
All of this, coupled with reports of witnesses being uncooperative with police, could give way to a wildly interesting case, to say the least. The next hearing for Zavala and Brito will be on Feb. 21. Prosecutors are seeking second-degree murder charges while the defense claims that the evidence presented only warrant manslaughter charges.