The Washington Post

Fingerprint match led to suspect in 2007 slaying of 19-year-old Falls Church woman

In Fairfax City Lieutenant Colonel James A. Morris, acting Chief Fairfax County Police, announces the arrest of 27-year-old Julio Miguel Blanco-Garcia for the murder of Vanessa Pham on Dec. 13. (Tracy A. Woodward/The Washington Post)

A fingerprint match led police to arrest a suspect in the high-profile slaying of a 19-year-old Falls Church woman that had gone unsolved for 21 / 2 years, according to a search warrant.

The break in Vanessa Pham’s killing came after the 27-year-old Falls Church man was recently arrested in an unspecified crime in Fairfax County and his fingerprints were taken, the warrant said.

An analysis matched Julio Miguel Blanco-Garcia’s prints to ones collected at the scene of the slaying, which had not previously produced a match, according to the warrant.

Pham was found dead inside a white Scion hatchback that was discovered in a ditch off Arlington Boulevard in the Falls Church area on June 27, 2010. The college freshman had been stabbed multiple times in the upper body.

Fairfax County police officials said Blanco-Garcia had not been a suspect in the case before the forensic analysis was returned last week. Blanco-Garcia was arrested at a Vienna construction site where he was working on Thursday and was charged with murder.

Immigration officials said Blanco-Garcia is a Guatemalan native who is in this country illegally. Fairfax County court records show he was convicted of a shoplifting offense in September, but he does not appear to have an extensive criminal record.

A Fairfax County police official had previously stated that it was a DNA match that led to Blanco-Garcia’s arrest.

Detectives collected unspecified DNA evidence from the scene of Pham’s killing that they believe belongs to Blanco-Garcia, according to the warrant. Investigators obtained the warrant to collect a DNA sample from Blanco-Garcia. They also want Blanco-Garcia’s finger and palm prints to further test them against those found at the crime scene.

The DNA recovered from the scene of the killing was run through a national DNA database, but it did not produce any matches, according to the search warrant.

Police have declined to comment on a motive or how the killing occurred, but they have said Blanco-Garcia and Pham did not appear to know each other. The warrant shed no light on those aspects of the case.

Blanco-Garcia’s attorney, David Bernhard, released a statement on the case.

“Our heartfelt thoughts go out to Ms. Pham’s family and friends,” the statement read. “We are well into investigating this matter and will not comment on the evidence except to say that no one should prejudge the facts based on leaks from unnamed sources, supposition or innuendo.”



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