Vanesa Zavala stood before the judge, hands clasped tightly in front of her, as her attorney spoke on her behalf Wednesday. Prosecutors have charged the 25-year-old Santa Ana resident with murder for her part in the death of Kim Pham during a violent beating caught on cellphone video.
Police say that Pham, 23, was standing in line with friends outside a popular nightspot called The Crosby in Santa Ana early Saturday morning when a verbal fight turned physical. Investigators say Pham was kicked and punched until she lost consciousness. Pham was declared brain dead and was removed from life support Tuesday.
"I know my client is not guilty of what she's been accused of," said Zavala's defense attorney, Kenneth Reed, speaking to reporters Wednesday.
Reed said his client grew up in Santa Ana, works in an office and is raising a 5-year-old son. He said she was out that night with her boyfriend. Reed said Zavala herself was hit and knocked to the ground and her cellphone was lost during the incident. He said the facts will come out in the courtroom.
"I refuse to believe the people of this community would watch a woman stomped to death by five people and nobody would do anything. Now, what I suspect happened and what I tend to think happened is it wasn't that -- it was a melee, it was a bunch of people fighting," said Reed.
Police are looking for at least four more suspects, including two women and two men.
"We've gotten lots of people coming in, sending us their video, coming in, making voluntary statements," said Santa Ana Police Corporal Anthony Bertagna. "The detectives believe there is a lot of that information still out there."
Zavala remained in jail Wednesday, held on $1 million bond. She is expected to return to court on January 30.
A $10,000 reward is offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible.
If you have any information or took video of the incident, you're urged to contact the Santa Ana Police Department's Crimes Against Persons Unit at (714) 245-8390. You can also call OC Crime Stoppers at (855) TIP-OCCS.