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Women to Stand Trial for Murder After Woman's Fatal Nightclub Beating

Two women are accused in a fatal beating outside a nightclub in Santa Ana last month

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    Two Orange County women will stand trial for murder after a bar brawl resulted in the death of another woman outside a nightclub in Santa Ana. New information on how the fight started, and why those involved say they were just trying to protect themselves. Hetty Chang reports from Westminster for the NBC4 News at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014. (Published Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014)

    A judge on Tuesday ordered two women to stand trial in a Southern California bar beating that left a 23-year-old woman dead.

    Vanesa Tapia Zavala, 25, and Candace Marie Brito, 27, both of Santa Ana, are accused in the Jan. 18 beating of 23-year-old Annie Hung "Kim" Pham outside The Crosby Bar and Nightclub.

    Pham was taken off life support and died two days later.

    911 Tape in Santa Ana Nightclub Beating Released

    [LA] 911 Tape in Santa Ana Nightclub Beating Released
    A frantic phone call to a 911 dispatcher describes the chaos during the fatal beating of 23-year-old Kim Pham outside a Santa Ana nightclub on Jan. 18, 2014. (Published Tuesday, Feb 11, 2014)

    Zavala and Brito, who have pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder, are scheduled to be arraigned Feb. 21.

    Orange County Superior Court Judge Thomas Borris found sufficient evidence for the women to stand trial, despite arguments by defense attorneys that police rushed to judgment and had not yet interviewed a third "person of interest" in the case.

    But defense attorney Michael Molfetta, who represents Brito, said it's not murder, but manslaughter because it was carried out in the heat of a fight.

    Undercover Detective's Revelation in Santa Ana Bar Brawl Testimony

    [LA] Undercover Detective's Revelation in Santa Ana Bar Brawl Testimony
    Undercover testimony from inside jail came in Monday during a hearing for the murder of Kim Pham. A detective reveals how she posed as an inmate to get close to a murder suspect. Patrick Healy reports from Westminster for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 10, 2014. (Published Monday, Feb 10, 2014)

    "It was a powderkeg. That powderkeg exploded and, I think, if nothing else, we've proven in the last two days that Miss. Pham lit the match," Molfetta said after the hearing. 

    At the center of this case is a blurry cell phone video that the defense says proves Pham threw the first punch, a point prosecutors say doesn't matter.

    Molfetta also contended that the lead investigator on the case, Santa Ana police Detective Leo Rodriguez, had not taken adequate steps to contact the remaining person of interest, who was identified in court as Amelia Avila.

    Victim in Beating Instigated Fight: Lawyer

    [LA] Victim in Bar Beating Started Fight: Lawyer
    The two women charged in the death of Santa Ana bar fight victim Kim Pham appeared in court for the first time on Thursday. One of their attorneys claimed Pham played a part in instigating the fight. Hetty Chang reports from Newport Beach for the NBC4 News at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 30, 2014. (Published Thursday, Jan 30, 2014)

    He sarcastically suggested that Rodriguez use the State Bar website to find her attorney and chided him for trying to find her at home in the middle of the day.

    Borris' ruling came at the end of an eventful two-day preliminary hearing that was briefly halted Monday when Detective Patricia Navarro testified that she wore a wire and posed as a jail inmate to get Zavala to discuss the attack.

    After the revelation, Borris met with attorneys privately and sent Navarro home for the day. In court today, both sides stipulated that when Navarro was undercover in the jail, Zavala told her only that Pham hit her first and she was defending herself.

    NBC4 Wire Services contributed to this report.

    Second Woman Charged in Kim Pham Death

    [LA] Second Woman Charged in Kim Pham Death
    Candance Brito's defense attorney speaks about his client's involvement in an altercation that ended with the death of 23-year-old Kim Pham outside a Santa Ana nightclub. Vikki Vargas reports for the NBC4 News at Noon on Tuesday Jan. 28, 2014. (Published Tuesday, Jan 28, 2014)