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The trial in the slaying of Vanessa Pham began with her killer’s attorneys admitting in court Monday that their client fatally stabbed the 19-year-old 2009 Madison High School graduate.

Julio Miguel Blanco Garcia, 27, of Falls Church is charged with first-degree murder, but his attorneys on Monday said Blanco Garcia did not mean to kill Pham, and that her death was not premeditated.

“This is not a case that is about who; this is a case about why,” said defense attorney Alberto Salvado in his opening statement in the jury trial that is expected to take about six days.

Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Casey Lingan told jurors a different story, saying evidence will show that Blanco Garcia did premeditate the actions that brought Pham’s “young life to a horrific end,” emphasizing that he had a butcher knife when he got in her car.

Blanco Garcia sat quietly in the courtroom in gray flannel suit as the attorneys discussed the case.

Two Fairfax County police officers, both who had been on the scene July 27, 2010, when Pham’s body was discovered in her vehicle near a Merrifield shopping center, testified Monday.

Sgt. Daniel Pang said he realized the scene was “not a fatal vehicle accident as originally thought” after stab wounds were discovered under Pham’s shirt.

In a Fairfax County Police incident report, Blanco Garcia admitted to stabbing Pham “a couple of times” in the chest with “an 8-10’ wide knife” as she cried.

Fairfax County police officer Scott Neville testified Monday that there were cuts in the chest area of Pham’s T-shirt when her body was discovered. “We took the T-shirt off to reveal at least three stab wounds,” he said. “There was an extraordinary amount of blood inside the vehicle inconsistent with the damage to the outside of the vehicle.”

Pham’s cousin, Tracy To, also testified Monday, calling Pham her “baby cousin” and identifying Pham’s autopsy photo.

On Tuesday morning, Medical Examiner A. Wayne Williams testified that Pham had “blunt force trauma” to the back of her head, and said she had been stabbed 13 times, including two fatal stab wounds to her chest. Williams also testified that Pham had defensive wounds on her hands, indicating that she had fought her attacker. He also said she would have not died immediately from her wounds.

“She would have lived more than 20 seconds” he told the jury.



gmacdonald@fairfaxtimes.com