Another arrest in fatal beating of Calif. woman outside club

Kim Pham, 23.

CBS Los Angeles

SANTA ANA, Calif. - A second woman was arrested Friday in the killing of Kim Pham, a woman who was beaten to death Jan. 18 outside of a nightclub in Orange County, Calif.

Police Chief Carlos Rojas said a 27-year-old Santa Ana resident was arrested for investigation of murder in the attack that left Pham unconscious on the sidewalk. He didn't release her name.

Pham, 23, of Westminster, was removed from life support Jan. 21. Coroner's officials said she died from head injuries.

Another Santa Ana resident, Vanesa Zavala, a 25-year-old mother, pleaded not guilty to murder in the case Jan. 22. She was ordered held on $1 million bail.

Rojas said at a news conference that investigators believe Zavala and four other people were leaving The Crosby nightclub shortly before 12:30 a.m. Jan. 18 when they "crossed paths" with a group that included Pham. A fight occurred.

Investigators were unclear how the confrontation started, "who said what, or who was fighting," but they believe Zavala and two other women fought with Pham.

Police don't know the identity of the third woman but she is considered a "person of interest" and investigators would like to talk to her, the chief said.

Police initially thought two men also may have been involved in the beating, but Rojas said investigators now believe only the women were involved. He said police would still like to talk to the men, however.

Investigators working the case have only identified one of the eight friends who were with Pham, a Vietnamese-American, on the night of the deadly fight, the Los Angeles Times reported Sunday.

Pham’s ex-boyfriend — who may have tried to help her — hasn't come forward and the one female friend that police have found won't talk, the paper reported.

Distrust of the government and of police runs deep in Orange County's Vietnamese-American community, where many residents are refugees or the children and grandchildren of refugees who fled to the U.S. during the Vietnam War. Although many younger Vietnamese-Americans are thoroughly Westernized, they could be avoiding police on the advice of their parents or out of respect for their concerns, said Police Commander Tim Vu, the highest-ranking Vietnamese-American law enforcement officer in Orange County.

"People worry that there will be retaliation," Vu told the Times. "They don't know the court system and are intimidated by it."

Civic leaders are now reaching out to witnesses through the Vietnamese-language media, stressing they will be treated with respect if they come forward and can meet privately with the police chief or even the mayor.

"Their identities will be protected if they wish," said Ken Nguyen, a volunteer who acts as Santa Ana's liaison to the local Vietnamese community. "These are the things we offered the youths, and so far, they are quiet."

A reward for information in the case stands at $11,000.