Kim Pham beating: Police identify third 'person of interest' (updated)

Kim Pham beating

Courtesy of Santa Ana Police Department

This composite of photos provided by the Santa Ana Police Department shows defendants Candace Brito (L) and Vanesa Zavala (R), who are each charged with one felony count of murder in connection with the death of Kim Pham, the 23-year-old woman who was beaten outside a Santa Ana nightclub on Jan. 19.

Kim Pham Person of Interest

Santa Ana Police Dept.

Santa Ana police are seeking this woman as a "person of interest" in connection with the beating death of Kim Pham outside a Santa Ana nightclub early on Jan. 18, 2014.

Kim Pham

Santa Ana Police Department

A suspect has been charged with murder in the death of Kim Pham, who was beaten Saturday morning outside a downtown Santa Ana club.

Makeshift memorial for Kim Pham

Ed Joyce/KPCC

One of many messages left at a makeshift memorial for Kim Pham in downtown Santa Ana.

Makeshift memorial for Kim Pham

Ed Joyce/KPCC

One of many personal messages at a makeshift memorial in downtown Santa Ana for Kim Pham.

Makeshift memorial for Kim Pham

Ed Joyce/KPCC

Photos, personal messages, flowers and candles at Fourth Street and Broadway in downtown Santa Ana in remembrance of Kim Pham.


1:51 p.m.: Police identify third 'person of interest'

Santa Ana police say a third woman sought for questioning in the fatal beating of Kim Pham has been identified and investigators are arranging to interview her.

The news comes at the same two other women charged with murder in the case appeared in court.

"At this point in the investigation, detectives have identified all the parties involved, including the third woman who remains a person of interest. Detectives are working with the person of interest to set up an interview," Santa Ana Police Department spokesman Cpl. Anthony Bertagna told KPCC in an email.

The two women facing murder charges in connection with the death of 23-year-old Pham, who was beaten outside of a Santa Ana nightclub on Jan. 19, have pleaded not guilty.

Candace Brito, 27  and Vanesa Zavala, 25, are each charged with one felony count of murder and are being tried together. Both are in jail in lieu of $1 million bail.

Brito's attorney, Michael Molfetta, says Pham was "actively involved" in starting what he called a "melee" outside the nightclub.

"This whole thing started, was ignited if you will, by Miss Pham," Molfetta said.

But Orange County Deputy District Attorney Troy Pino said from the video evidence it is "clear who is doing the kicking and punching" to Pham and it "doesn't matter who started what."

"The blows that were administered, the victim was on the ground, so it doesn't matter how we got to that point and it's not clear how we got to that point. But at that point it doesn't matter. She was then vulnerable and any assault at that point was unjustified," Pino said.

Pino also said there has been a lot of misinformation in the case. 

"There is no evidence that it is racially motivated. I can tell you there is no evidence about photo bombing," he said.

The preliminary hearing for Brito and Zavala is set for Tuesday at the Harbor Justice Center in Newport Beach.

"There's a reason why we want to proceed as quickly as we are proceeding," said Molfetta, when asked about the few days between the pre-trial and the preliminary hearing. "You've got a lot of young people who have a very quick, explosive event and time does a lot of things, including fading memories... We're dealing with young people at a bar who were very, very hopped up — whether it was alcohol or adrenalin — so you want to get things memorialized."

12:37 p.m.: 2 women charged with murder to be tried together

Two women facing murder charges in connection with the beating of Kim Pham will be tried together. 

Candace Brito and Vanesa Zavala are each charged with one felony count of murder in the death of Pham, 23, who was beaten January 19 outside The Crosby nightclub in downtown Santa Ana. Pham died several days later when life support was removed.

Brito defense attorney Michael Molfetta stood in for Vanesa Zavala's attorney Kenneth Reed during the Thursday pre-trial hearing. Zavala, wearing a jail jumpsuit, was in court; Brito was not.

Orange County Deputy District Attorney Troy Pino said in video evidence of the altercation it is "clear who is doing the kicking and punching."

Pino said a third person is also clearly seen on the video and Santa Ana police continue to seek out that "person of interest."

Brito attorney Molfetta said Pham was "actively involved" in starting what he called a "melee" outside the nightclub.

"This whole thing started, was ignited if you will, by Miss Pham," Molfetta told reporters after the Thursday pre-trial hearing.

But Pino said "it doesn't matter who started what."

"[Pham] was on the ground ... any assault at that point wasn't justified," said Pino. 

Pino also said, contrary to some media reports, there is no evidence the incident was about photo bombing or related to race.

Pino said two nightclub security guards and about "10 to 15 bystanders" tried to break up the fighting.

The preliminary hearing for Brito and Zavala is set for Tuesday, Feb. 4 at the Harbor Justice Center in Newport Beach. 

Pino and Molfetta said they are ready to go forward with the preliminary hearing even though it's only a few days away.

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