FAIRFAX, Va. (WJLA) -- The man on trial for killing 19-year-old Vanessa Pham in one of Fairfax County’s most high-profile homicides was found guilty of first-degree murder by a jury Thursday.
Just before her death, Vanessa Pham sent a cheery Saturday morning video message to a life-long friend, talking about how she had three projects due and so much homework; Pham also referenced a music video by the Jonas brothers.
No one ever imagined that the video would eventually be used to help put away her murderer.
Asked whether the message captured her daughter's spirit, Vanessa's mother Julie Pham was brought to tears.
"She always makes faces," she said. "She loved doing that."
After the verdict was announced, Julie Pham was brought to the stand for what’s called a 'Victim’s Impact Statement.' But she told the jury that the video and the photos of her only child are just too much to bear.
"I have no life," she described in court. "I just go to work and come home, stay in my room... When I go to my locker at break time, I overhear friends talking about their daughters and son from college..." She apologizes as she begins to cry again.
Blanco Garcia never raised his head to look at his victim’s mother or at the jury. They would soon deliberate and decide whether he should spend life in prison or serve a sentence of no less than 20 years. The jury could also impose a fine up to $100,000.
Vanessa’s aunt Michelle wanted a life sentence for Blanco Garcia. When asked how life has been without Vanessa, she broke out into sobs:
"I've been crying everyday. I've been crying every night. If I don't talk about Vanessa, I'm okay. If I talk about her...I'm on heavy medication for anxiety since Vanessa died..."
Following the penalty phase, which lasted about an hour, the jury unanimously recommended a sentence of 49 years in prison for Blanco Garcia -- 30 years plus 19 years of Vanessa's life. Official sentencing is scheduled to take place October 18.
Earlier in the day, the jury deliberated for about three hours before convicting Julio Blanco Garcia of first-degree murder. During the trial, authorities played a videotaped confession Blanco Garcia gave to police in which he expresses remorse over the 2010 Falls Church slaying.
“I don’t know what happened. I grabbed the knife. I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to,” he says in the confession. “I’m not a bad guy, I was just so high that time, I just saw her, I asked her for a ride to the hospital...”
Authorities say Blanco Garcia stabbed Pham 13 times after she picked him and his infant daughter up at the Fairfax Plaza Shopping Center on June 27, 2010. He was admittedly high on PCP at the time of the killing.
Blanco Garcia was arrested more than two years after the killing after police found DNA evidence linking him to the murder.