A jury found Julio Blanco Garcia guilty of first-degree murder in the death of Fairfax teen Vanessa Pham. News4 Northern Virginia Bureau Chief Julie Carey reports.
Just two hours after they found him guilty of first-degree murder, a jury recommended Julio Blanco Garcia be sentenced to 49 years in prison in the death of Vanessa Pham, a 19-year-old college student who he killed after she offered him a ride.
The jury recommended a sentence of 30 years plus 19 years for Pham's life after hearing emotional testimony from Pham's mother, featuring photos and video of the once happy teenager.
Pham's family and friends did not want to comment Thursday, but prosecutors said they were content with the results.
"Obviously they wanted a life sentence, they thought that was appropriate since the defendent took their daughter's life," Fairfax County Commonwealth's Attorney Raymond F. Morrogh said. "I believe they do [think justice has been served]."
Blanco Garcia, an undocumented worker prior to his arrest, had said he was high on PCP during the 2010 attack. Whether the murder was premeditated was a key issue in the trial.
The defense argued Blanco Garcia was too high to plan a murder and no one would begin a premeditated murder in a shopping center parking lot with so many surveillance cameras.
But the trial also featured a video confession recorded during an interrogation in December 2012 in which Blanco Garcia admitted to the murder. The recording was played in court Wednesday, leaving Pham's relatives in tears.
"Like, I can't even say if I had my daughter with me, because I was really high," Blanco Garcia told police. "I remember I asked [Pham] to drop me off at the hospital, then she took the wrong way. In my mind, because I was really high, I thought she was going to do something to me. I had a knife in my backpack... and then I did what I did."
The defense rested Thursday after calling just three witnesses to the stand and seeing a motion to reduce the charges rejected by the judge.
Pham was found fatally stabbed inside her car June 27, 2010, along Arlington Boulevard, after giving Blanco Garcia and his baby daughter a ride when he said he needed to get to a hospital.
Blanco Garcia was charged with Pham's murder in December 2012. He admitted to stabbing Pham several times in the chest as she cried. He said he drove her car for a while before he crashed, left the knife behind, grabbed his daughter and then left the scene.
Other testimony Thursday morning covered past drug use by Blanco Garcia. Two police officers called by the defense discussed a 2006 incident in which Blanco Garcia had a bad reaction after smoking crack and cut his arms. He was taken by police to a psychiatric hospital in 2006 but was not admitted.
Cell phone records place him in the area of the murder at the time Pham was killed, testimony revealed Wednesday. Four calls were tracked from Blanco Garcia's cell phone to a Merrifield-area Verizon tower in the minutes just after police believe the teenager was stabbed to death.
In the video, Blanco Garcia said he had called his mother.
An analysis of two computers taken from Blanco Garcia's apartment show that he had a keen interest in the police investigation during the 2 1/2 years that authorities were searching for Pham's killer.
A computer forensic specialist from the Fairfax County police dept, Jason Friedman, said that Blanco Garcia often entered the names "Vanessa" or" Pham" in his search engine.
Friedman discovered that Blanco Garcia visited NBCWashington.com several times to read stories about the search for her killer. Blanco Garcia also searched topics related to PCP, other drugs and drug treatment, Friedman testified.
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