Vanesa Tapia Zavala pleads not guilty in death of Annie Kim Pham

Pham beaten by group outside Santa Ana nightclub

SANTA ANA, Calif. - A 25-year-old woman was charged Wednesday with the murder of a Westminster woman who was beaten by a group of people while waiting in line outside a Santa Ana nightclub.

Vanesa Tapia Zavala was arrested Monday. She is accused of taking part in the Saturday morning beating that left 23-year-old Annie Hung "Kim" Pham brain-dead.

Zavala, who pleaded not guilty to the murder charge, faces 15 years to life in prison if convicted. She was ordered to remain jailed in lieu of $1 million bail and is due back in court Jan. 30 for a pretrial hearing.

Pham was beaten about 12:20 a.m. Saturday outside the Crosby Bar and Nightclub at 400 N. Broadway. She was declared brain-dead Sunday, but was kept on life support so her organs could be harvested. She was taken off life support Tuesday and died around midday, police said.

Four other suspects -- two women and two men -- are still at large, police said.

Pham was waiting to get into the nightclub with friends when an argument started with another group of patrons, escalating into a fight, according to police.

Zavala's attorney, Kenneth Reed, told reporters after his client's arraignment that she was knocked down during the melee, and he doubted reports that it was a beat-down.

"I refuse to believe that people of this community would watch a woman stomped to death by five people and nobody would do anything," Reed said. The lawyer characterized it as "a melee, a bunch of people fighting."

Zavala lost her phone in the brawl, and it was recovered later by police, according to Reed, who said she is "devastated" by the violence.

"Your day is fine, your life is fine, you have a 5-year-old son, you go out one night on a Friday with your boyfriend and then your life is turned upside down and you find out someone is killed," Reed said. "No matter what the situation is, you're going to be devastated."

Patrol officers called to the scene found Pham unconscious on the sidewalk.

Pham graduated from Chapman University last year with a psychology degree and had worked to raise money for breast cancer awareness, the Orange County Register reported.

Downtown Inc., a coalition of Santa Ana businesses, offered a $5,000 reward for information leading to the attackers. The city matched the reward, bumping it up to $10,000.

Anyone with information or cell phone video of the brawl was asked to call police at 714-245-8390.

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