Fairfax detective, medical examiner testify Vanessa Pham likely tried to fight off attacker

A detective held up a bloodstained black T-shirt before a Fairfax County jury Tuesday, pointing out the slits created when Vanessa Pham’s killer repeatedly stabbed her. Pham’s family members sobbed quietly in the front row of the courtroom.

The dramatic display came on the second day of her accused killer’s murder trial, which featured starkly contrasting testimony that cut to the tragedy of the case. A medical examiner and detective grimly recounted the horrific wounds Pham suffered and the bloody crime scene, while friends recalled a buoyant college freshman who was on the top of the world the day she was killed.

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Julio Miguel Blanco Garcia, 27, of Falls Church, is charged with first-degree murder in Pham’s death. Police and prosecutors say the Falls Church woman was giving Blanco Garcia and his young daughter a ride on June 27, 2010. Prosecutors said Blanco Garcia stabbed the 19-year-old as she was driving, after she made a wrong turn down a one-way road.

Blanco Garcia’s attorneys said their client was sick and hallucinating from smoking too much PCP, and was worried about his daughter’s safety when Pham made the wrong turn. Blanco Garcia “flipped out,” they said. They called it a “perfect storm of tragedy.”

On Tuesday, a medical examiner testified Pham suffered 13 stab wounds, including two in the chest that caused her death. He said Pham would not have died immediately from her wounds and likely tried to fight off her attacker, since she had defensive wounds on her hands. Some of Pham’s family members left the courtroom during the graphic testimony.

The harrowing testimony climaxed with a dramatic exchange between Chief Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Casey Lingan and medical examiner A.Wayne Williams.

“[Was Pham alive] long enough to feel pain?” Lingan asked.

“Yes,” Williams replied.

“Long enough to move?”

“Yes.”

“Long enough to have a thought?”

“Yes.”

The mother of a friend of Pham’s testified that Pham had stopped by their house just hours before she was killed. Mary McManus said she and Pham chatted for about 30 minutes.

Pham, who had finished her first year at Savannah College of Art and Design, was living with her mother in Falls Church. She had learned that day that a Great Falls family had decided to offer her a summer job as a nanny, court papers say.

“She was ecstatically happy,” McManus said. “She had a good year at school and her getting work as a nanny was coming together that day.”

The Washington Post will provide coverage throughout the trial. Follow reporter Justin Jouvenal, @jjouvenal, on Twitter for live updates.