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Trial jury selection slated for Monday

by Gregg MacDonald

Staff Writer

Many details about the upcoming Vanessa Pham murder trial have been made public preceding jury selection, which is scheduled for Monday.

In motions filed in Fairfax County Circuit Court by both prosecutors and defense attorneys, attorneys for defendant Julio Miguel Blanco Garcia — accused of murdering 19-year-old art student Vanessa Pham by stabbing her 13 times with a butcher knife — do not deny the homicide, but argue whether the act was premeditated.

“It is the understanding of the Commonwealth that the evidence in the case is not disputed by the Defendant, but, rather, Defendant will be arguing the issue of premeditation to a jury that has been fully instructed on the law in Virginia,” wrote Chief Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Casey M. Lingan in an Aug. 6 response to a defendant motion filed with the court.

A Fairfax County Police incident report states that Blanco Garcia told detectives in an interview that after smoking PCP, he approached Pham in the parking lot of the Fairfax Plaza Shopping Center while carrying his infant daughter, and asked her for a ride to a local hospital. After Pham agreed, she made a wrong turn and Blanco Garcia said he became concerned that she was going to call the police, the incident report states. In the police interview, Blanco Garcia admitted to pulling out a butcher knife from his backpack and then stabbing Pham several times in the chest as she cried. He then removed his daughter from the car, leaving Pham for dead, and walked away. He had injured the palm of his left hand while stabbing Pham and said he used a baby wipe to wipe the blood off his hands.

“The Defendant is charged with premeditated murder,” wrote defense attorney David Bernhard in a motion filed with the court Aug. 5. “It is essential to the defense of the Defendant to dispel that this was a premeditated crime by showing the jury that the busily trafficked area would be the last place where someone would commit premeditated murder … he was hallucinating and thought the decedent was going to harm his daughter when she started driving the wrong way in the direction of oncoming traffic from Route 50 … the fact the vehicle was heading the wrong way corroborates the defendant acted without deliberation in his PCP-intoxicated state.”

Bernhard declined to comment on the case, and Lingan did not return several calls made to him.

If a jury decides that Pham’s homicide was premeditated, the trial could become a capital murder case.