In opening statements Monday in the 2010 murder of a Fairfax County teenager, the defense did not deny their client is responsible but argued that the attack was not planned.
A jury was selected Monday in the trial of Julio Blanco Garcia, which is expected to last two weeks. He pleaded not guilty in the murder of 19-year-old Vanessa Pham, who was found stabbed to death inside her car in a ditch near Fairfax Plaza shopping center in the Merrifield area.
"This is not a case about who," said one of his defense attorneys in court Monday. "It's a case about why. It's a perfect storm of tragedy."
Court documents suggest Pham was doing a good deed when she encountered her killer. They say that minutes before her car was captured on surveillance video from the shopping center June 27, 2010, Blanco Garcia approached Pham with his 1-year-old girl and asked for a ride to the hospital.
In an interview with police after his arrest 2 ½ years later, Blanco Garcia said he was high on PCP that day and when Pham took a wrong turn, he got worried, took a butcher knife from his backpack and repeatedly stabbed Pham, according to court documents.
When police reached the scene, they thought she'd been killed in the crash.
"When we pulled Miss Pham out of the vehicle, and laid her down, it was at that point that there were some slits observed in her shirt, and the detective looked and noted there was what appeared to be stab wounds in her chest," testified Sgt. Daniel Pang, the first officer to the scene.
Pham, a college freshman and aspiring fashion designer, was stabbed more than a dozen times, and her car veered into a ditch along Arlington Boulevard.
Blanco Garcia fled with his daughter.
Vanessa Pham's cousin, who was the last witness Monday, became visibly upset when she looked at the bloody crime scene photos and identified the victim.
Blanco Garcia was arrested in December 2012 after fingerprints linked him to the car. As News4 exclusively reported, prosecutors say that DNA evidence found on a knife connects Blanco Garcia to the murder.
Blanco Garcia had the knife because he planned to steal a TV, not stab anyone, the defense said Monday.