Cop Posed as Inmate to Record Suspect in Kim Pham Beating Death

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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.

Kim Pham beating

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.

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