Kim Pham beating: Two women charged in Pham's death face trial in April

Vanesa Zavala (L) and Candace Marie Brito (R) at the West Justice Center on February 10, 2014 in Westminster, California. The two defendants face trial April 14 on murder charges in connection with the beating death of Kim Pham in front of a Santa Ana nightclub.
Vanesa Zavala (L) and Candace Marie Brito (R) at the West Justice Center on February 10, 2014 in Westminster, California. The two defendants face trial April 14 on murder charges in connection with the beating death of Kim Pham in front of a Santa Ana nightclub. Mark Boster-Pool/Getty Images

A trial date was set by an Orange County Superior Court judge Friday for two women charged with murder in connection with the beating death of Kim Pham.  

Vanesa Zavala, 25  and Candace Brito, 27, face trial April 14 on charges of murder and assault with force likely to produce great bodily injury. They also face a sentencing enhancement of inflicting great bodily harm. If the women are convicted, the enhancement means the judge can impose a longer prison sentence. 

Both have pleaded not guilty and remain jailed in lieu of $1 million bail. They each face a maximum sentence of 15 years to life in state prison if found guilty. 

The two defendants were bound over for trial after a two day preliminary hearing in February in Orange County Superior Court. 

Pham, 23, of Westminster, was assaulted just after midnight on January 18, outside The Crosby nightclub in downtown Santa Ana.  She was declared dead two days after the incident when life support was removed. The Orange County Coroner's Office said Pham died from blunt force trauma to the head.  

Santa Ana police say Zavala and Brito were among a group of five people leaving the nightclub when the altercation occurred between them and Pham’s group, who'd been waiting to enter the club. 

But just who started the fight outside The Crosby is in dispute.

During the preliminary hearing, testimony from police investigators cited a witness who told them the fight started after Pham started swearing at a group of people, which included Zavala and Brito. The witness also said that Pham threw the first punch. But friends who were with Pham outside the nightclub say three women, including Zavala and Brito, attacked Pham after they bumped into her.

Cellphone video of the altercation was shown during the preliminary hearing. One video shows Pham wrestling with another woman on a sidewalk. As they struggle, a woman in a white blouse, black jacket and boots approaches and appears to kick Pham in the head. Prosecutors say the woman doing the kicking is Zavala. Immediately after the kick, Pham goes limp and the clip ends with her friends lifting her by her arms as they try to carry her away. 

Other footage appears to show Brito kicking Pham as well before Brito is knocked to the ground by another woman.

Police are still seeking to interview a third woman, identified in court testimony as "Amelia," who they say is the person wrestling on the ground with Pham when she is kicked.

Zavala told police that Pham's first swing hit her and the fight began.

Defense attorneys have repeatedly said that Pham's friends might have minimized her role in the fight and their involvement.

The two defendants are scheduled to be back in court for a pre-trial hearing March 21. 

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