Kim Pham beating: 2nd woman charged in nightclub death pleads not guilty

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A second suspect arraigned Tuesday in connection with the fatal beating of Kim Pham pleaded not guilty to a charge of murder.

Pham, 23, of Westminster, was assaulted January 19 outside a Santa Ana nightclub.  She was declared dead two days after the incident. The Orange County Coroner's Office says she died from blunt force trauma to the head. 

Candace Marie Brito, 27, was arraigned on one count of felony murder. Prosecutors say Brito was one of three women involved in a physical altercation with Kim Pham outside The Crosby club.

Brito pled not guilty and faces a preliminary hearing January 30 at the Harbor Justice Center in Newport Beach. A pre-trial hearing for Brito was set for February 3. Bail was set at $1 million.

Santa Ana police have arrested and charged another woman, Vanesa Zavala, 25, of Santa Ana, with murder in connection with the altercation.  Both she and Brito face a preliminary hearing Thursday and are scheduled for a pretrial meeting on Monday, February 3rd. 

Police say Zavala and Brito were among a group of five people leaving the club early Saturday morning when the altercation occurred between them and Pham’s group, who'd been waiting to enter the club. 

Investigators are also looking to speak with two men who had been part of the group but are not believed to have been part of the altercation. 

After the arraignment, Brito's attorney, Michael Molfetta, said she "had nothing to do with what happened to Pham."

He said Pham died "tragically, unnecessarily. It was senseless, mindless."

Molfetta said his client has no criminal record.

"She's a good person, has worked hard, and has been in the same job for a long time," he said.

He said if prosecutors are basing the case on cellphone video, "that dog won't hunt."

"Shame on you," said Molfetta, referring to many people who recorded the incident on their cellphones rather than stepping in to break up the altercation.

Molfetta said Pham has "been anointed a saint" by the media while his client "and Kenneth Reed's client [Zavala] have been vilified."

"I'm just saying Candace Brito didn't kill her [Pham], that's all I'm saying," said Molfetta.

He added that Zavala attorney Reed has been getting "hate mail" since Zavala was arraigned last week.

Molfetta said Brito won't be able to post bail.

"She's going to stay in jail until this is over," Molfetta said.

Pham's funeral services were scheduled to begin in Westminster about the same time as Brito's arraignment Tuesday.

Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido had called the beating “an isolated incident” and said there was no evidence it was a hate crime.

This story has been updated.

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