Story Summary

Santa Ana Nightclub Beating Death of Kim Pham

Kim Pham, a 23-year-old Huntington Beach woman, was brutally beaten outside a Santa Ana nightclub on Jan. 18, 2014, according to police. She later pronounced dead after being taken off life support.

Candace Brito, 27, and Vanesa Zavala, 25, were charged with murder in her death. The defendants’ attorneys have cited police testimony that Pham threw the first punch, and have said Pham was with gang members.

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Two women who have already pleaded not guilty to murder in the beating death of 23-year-old Kim Pham outside a Santa Ana nightclub faced additional charges in court Friday.

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Vanesa Zavala and Candace Brito appeared at a preliminary hearing in Westminster on Feb. 11, 2014. (Credit: pool)

Candace Brito, 27, and Vanesa Zavala, 25, pleaded not guilty to one count each of assault with force likely to produce great bodily injury.

The new charges come as their attorneys said the case had been changed completely by newly reported witness statements to police that Pham was accompanied by Asian gang members at the time of the Jan. 18 beating.

Office workers Brito and Zavala have been accused of fighting with Pham, who fell to the ground unconscious outside The Crosby nightclub.

Pham died several days later after being removed from life support, and the case has generated national attention.

Attorneys for Brito and Zavala have said that Pham threw the first punch, and testimony from police revealed there were conflicting accounts of how the melee began.

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A mourner places a candle at the site where Kim Pham — seen in the inset in a photo posted on a flyer asking witnesses to help police — was beaten in Santa Ana on Jan. 18, 2014. (Credit: KTLA)

Orange County prosecutor Troy Pino has said it does not matter who started the fight, only that it led to Pham’s death.

Cellphone video that shows Brito and Zavala kicking Pham makes the case for murder, Pino has said.

Meanwhile, a police report cited by the Orange County Register Thursday reportedly detailed an interview with the boyfriend of a woman involved in the fight. The boyfriend reportedly said he witnessed the altercation and said those accompanying Pham yelled the name of their criminal street gang.

“They were the aggressors, the instigators,” said Michael Molfetta, Brito’s attorney, according to the O.C. Weekly.

He told reporters outside Friday’s Westminster court hearing that the fight was “gang related,” and that Brito and Zavala were attacked by a group that included people with affiliations with Asian gangs.

Molfetta reiterated the claim that Pham instigated the fight.

Pham grabbed the witness’ girlfriend hair and pulled her to the ground, prompting the fight, the boyfriend said in the police report, according to the Register.

“What we have here are a bunch of people that were standing in line that have affiliations to a gang — at least some of them do — that attacked somebody, or a group of people, for bumping into them,” Molfett said. “I’ve heard the prosecution … talk about how Ms. Pham was lying on her back, defenseless. I defy anybody to look at that video and to point out where that is.”

Pino has said there’s no evidence the fight was gang related.

“There were peripheral fights that occurred away from this fight, and  there were some statements about maybe gang slogans being uttered there,” Pino said. “But that has nothing to do with this particular altercation between the defendants and the victim.”

Zavala and Brito were due to appear in court in Westminster again on Monday.

KTLA’s Kareen Wynter contributed to this report.

Several legal experts say a secretly recorded conversation by a Santa Ana Police detective of a suspect in the deadly nightclub beating of a 23-year-old woman would be difficult to introduce as evidence during trial.

Kim Pham beatingSanta Ana Police Det. Patricia Navarro testified Tuesday that she spent an hour with suspect Vanesa Tapia Zavala inside a jail holding cell.

Navarro had testified Monday that she secretly recorded the conversation after Zavala had refused to talk with police and asked for a lawyer.

Zavala and Candace Marie Brito are accused of killing Kim Pham during a Jan. 18 altercation that left the young woman comotose, and dead just days later. Zavala, 25, and Brito, 27, have pleaded not guilty to murder charges.

Click here to read the full story on LATimes.com.

The two women accused in the beating death of 23-year-old Kim Pham were ordered to stand trial on murder charges following a preliminary hearing Tuesday.

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Vanesa Zavala and Candace Brito appeared at a preliminary hearing in Westminster on Feb. 11, 2014. (Credit: pool)

Candace Brito, 27, and Vanesa Zavala, 25, have each pleaded not guilty to one count of murder in the death of Pham, who was beaten outside a Santa Ana nightclub. The case has generated national attention.

After the two-day hearing, a judge found there was sufficient evidence for the women to be tried on the murder charges.

Attorneys for the two women had tried to have charges reduced to manslaughter, arguing that Pham triggered the Jan. 18 altercation outside The Crosby after throwing the first punch.

“With all due respect to the Pham family and to the tragedy that they’re going through, I think the tiara is off Ms. Pham,” said Michael Molfetta, Brito’s attorney, outside the courthouse. “She was not just standing in line, having a drink, waiting to go out and be with her friends. That’s not what happened that night.”

Prosecutor Troy Pino said it did not matter who hit first.

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Kim Pham, who was fatally beaten outside The Crosby in Santa Ana, is seen in a photo posted on a flyer asking witnesses for help.

He played multiple videos taken by witnesses at the scene showing Pham fighting with several people before getting knocked unconscious and moved away by a group of friends. Pino told reporters the videos make the case for murder.

“You see Ms. Brito go around the pack … and give two very hard kicks. And then, when she’s pushed away, then in comes Ms. Zavala, and delivers a very hard kick,” Pino said. “At that point, Ms. Pham goes limp, never recovers consciousness, and dies.”

New details had emerged in the case during court testimony, including how Santa Ana police attempted to get information out of one of the two women.

A Santa Ana police detective — identified by the Los Angeles Times as Detective Patricia Navarro — testified that she went undercover and posed as an inmate to get information from Zavala, video from inside the courtroom on Monday showed.

“I was asked to act in an undercover capacity and contact Zavala to find out the truth about what happened,” she said on the stand.

Navarro had been ordered to return to court on Tuesday, the Times reported.

Testimony from other officers also revealed that there was conflicting information about who threw the first punch. One officer stated he was told it was Pham, while another officer said Pham’s friends told him the other women started the fight.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday, Santa Ana police released a recording of a 911 call from a witness to the fight.

“There’s a fight right here off of … Broadway and Fourth Street. There’s a girl that’s unconscious,” the caller said. “There was guys and girls hitting her.”

Pham died Jan. 21 after being taken off life support.

The cause of her death was complications from blunt force trauma to the head, according to a report from the Orange County coroner’s office.

Brito and Zavala were scheduled to return to court Feb. 21.

KTLA’s Kareen Wynter, Kacey Montoya, Melissa Pamer and Tracy Bloom contributed to this report.

A Santa Ana detective testified Monday that she posed as an inmate, going undercover into the jail cell of a defendant in a high-profile beating case after the woman refused to talk with police and demanded an attorney.

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A detective testified Monday that she posed as an inmate and entered Vanessa Zavala’s cell to find out what she knew about the Jan. 18 that killed Kim Pham. (Credit: Mark Boster, Los Angeles Times)

Det. Patricia Navarro said she never identified herself to Vanesa Tapia Zavala when she secretly recorded their conversation in a jail cell, trying to get her to share details about the fight outside a downtown Santa Ana nightclub that left a recent college graduate comatose, and then dead days later.

Zavala, 25, and Candace Marie Brito, 27, have been charged with murder in the Jan. 18 altercation. Both have pleaded not guilty.

“I was asked to act in an undercover capacity and contact Ms. Zavala to find out the truth about what had occurred,” Navarro testified.

Click here to read the full story on LATimes.com.

Two women charged in the death of 23-year-old Kim Pham, who was beaten Jan. 18 outside a nightclub in Santa Ana, appeared in court in Westminster Monday.

Candace Brito, 27, and Vanesa Zavala, 25, appeared at a preliminary hearing as Pham’s family member wore buttons with the victim’s likeness. Both women had pleaded not guilty to murder.

During morning testimony, a medical examiner gave graphic testimony on Pham’s injuries, and a responding police officer described witnesses’ statements about the fight.

Kareen Wynter reports from Westminster for the KTLA 5 News at 1 on Feb. 10, 2014.

A preliminary hearing Tuesday in Westminster for two women charged in the beating death of Annie Kim Pham was postponed until next week, court officials said.

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Candace Marie Brito (L) and Vanessa Tapia Zavala (R) have both pleaded not guilty to murder charges in the beating death of Kim Pham. (Credit: Santa Ana Police Department )

Candace Marie Brito, 27, and Vanesa Tapia Zavala, 25, pleaded not guilty to murder charges in Pham’s beating death outside The Crosby nightclub in Santa Ana.

Pham, 23, was taken off life support on Jan. 21, three days after she was hospitalized with severe injuries. Her funeral took place on Jan. 28.

Brito’s attorney, Michael Molfetta, has previously told reporters that his client is an office worker who was not involved in a physical altercation. He called the beating a “bar fight.”

“Ms. Pham has been anointed a saint and the people on the other side — specifically, my client and Mr. Reed’s client — have been vilified internationally,” Molfetta said, referring to Zavalo.

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Kim Pham, who was fatally beaten outside The Crosby in Santa Ana, is seen in a photo posted on a flyer asking witnesses for help.

Police have said they don’t know exactly how the fight started.

Investigators initially said they were searching for two men and three women, but later said only three women were involved in the fight.

Leaders in the majority-Latino city have urged calm, saying the beating was an isolated incident and not a hate crime.

The hearing for Brito and Zavala was moved to Monday at 8:30 a.m.

On the same morning that a second suspect was due in court in her killing, a funeral was taking place Tuesday for a woman who died after being beaten outside a Santa Ana nightclub.

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A mourner stands outside a funeral for Kim Pham in Westminster on Jan. 28, 2014. (Credit: KTLA)

Annie Kim Pham was being memorialized at a private funeral service at Blessed Sacrament Church in Westminster.

She died at age 23 upon being removed from life support Jan. 21, three days after being hospitalized with severe injuries following a fight outside The Crosby nightclub.

She died of complications from blunt force trauma to the head, according to the Orange County coroner’s office.

Her father told the Los Angeles Times that Pham had recently married and moved to Huntington Beach. A Chapman University graduate, Pham had recently gotten a job at Nordstrom, her father told the newspaper.

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Candace Marie Brito, 27, is shown in a booking photo. (Credit: Santa Ana Police Department)

Meanwhile, Candace Marie Brito, 27, of Santa Ana pleaded not guilty Tuesday morning to one felony count of murder in Pham’s death. She was arrested Jan. 24.

A judge ruled that cameras were not allowed at the hearing, held at the Santa Ana Central Jail.

Brito’s attorney, Michael Molfetta, told reporters that his client is an office worker who was not involved in a physical altercation. He called the beating a “bar fight.”

“Ms. Pham has been anointed a saint and the people on the other side — specifically, my client and Mr. Reed’s client — have been vilified internationally,” Molfetta said, referring to another woman charged in the case.

Molfetta previously said that Pham “threw the first punch,” The Times reported, as did the Orange County Register.

“This young lady died tragically; she died unnecessarily,” Molfetta said outside the hearing Tuesday. “What occurred out there — whatever occurred out there — was stupid, was mindless, was senseless and should never have resulted in the death of anybody, much less a young person.”

Another woman, Vanesa Tapia Zavala, 25, pleaded not guilty Jan. 22 to a murder charge in Pham’s death. She was being represented by Kenneth Reed, who said Zavala was innocent but had been hit and knocked down during the fight.

Zavala and Brito, both Santa Ana residents, were ordered held on $1 million bail each.

A third woman was being sought, and police released a photo of her on Friday.

Police have said they don’t know exactly how the fight started, only that some kind of physical contact led to a verbal argument and then the beating.

Police initially were searching for two men and three women, but later said only three women were involved in the melee.

Leaders in the majority-Latino city have urged calm, saying the beating was an isolated incident and not a hate crime.

That message was echoed by a woman who said she was Pham’s cousin at a vigil held last Friday at the site where Pham was beaten.

“She doesn’t want people to be hating on other race(s). This is not about race,” Kathleen Trinh said. “Just learn to love people. Be the helping hand, don’t be a bystander.”‘

KTLA’s Sara Welch contributed to this article.

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A vigil was held Jan. 24, 2014, at the site where Kim Pham was beaten in Santa Ana. (Credit: KTLA)

Dung Pham knows only one way to survive the loss of his 23-year-old daughter, Kim, who died last week after she was severely beaten outside a Santa Ana nightclub.

Poster of Kim Pham

A poster seeking information is displayed at a memorial for Kim Pham, the 23-year-old woman who died after being attacked by a group of people outside a Santa Ana nightclub. (Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

“All I can do is practice to forget,” Pham, 60, said of his youngest child. “Forget the memories. Forget the big moments. Forget everything. Only then would we suffer less.”

Police said Kim Pham was attacked in the predawn hours of Jan. 18 as she stood in line outside The Crosby club. She was still unconscious when officers arrived. On Tuesday, she died after being taken off life support.

Police have arrested two suspects in Pham’s death and are looking for another person of interest. One of Pham’s friends said the confrontation might have started when she unintentionally stepped into another group’s photo.

Click here to read the full story on LATimes.com.

A vigil was held Friday night in Santa Ana for Kim Pham just hours after police announced the arrest of a second woman and released a picture of a third woman sought in connection with the violent beating death of the 23-year-old Westminister woman outside a local nightclub.

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A woman sought as a person of interest in a fatal beating in Santa Ana is seen in this photo. (Credit: Santa Ana Police Department/KTLA)

Kim Pham, 23, was brutally beaten outside The Crosby early Saturday morning following a verbal and physical confrontation with three women, according to Santa Ana Police Chief Carlos Rojas.

Pham was pronounced dead on Tuesday after being taken off life support.

Vanesa Zavala, 25, was arrested and later pleaded not guilty to a murder charge in Pham’s death. She was being held on $1 million bail.

The second suspect taken into custody was only identified by the police chief as a 27-year-old woman from Santa Ana.

Police were still looking for the third unidentified woman in connection with the deadly beating. She was being considered a person of interest, according to Chief Rojas.

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Kim Pham, who was fatally beaten outside The Crosby in Santa Ana, is seen in a photo posted on a flyer asking witnesses for help.

Authorities initially said that five people were being sought in the beating, but the police chief clarified on Friday that only three women were believed to be involved in the incident.

Police said they were still conducting their investigation.

Anyone with information about this case or videos of the incident was asked to contact Crime Stoppers at (855) TIP-OCCS.

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