It looked like a car crash but investigators now say it was no accident. Fairfax County Police say the young woman found dead was murdered.
Officers found the car around 3:30 p.m. Sunday, crashed into a small, wooded area off Arlington Boulevard, also known as Route 50.
Police say investigators knew right away something was amiss. On Monday, an autopsy confirmed their suspicions, ruling the death a homicide.
Investigators returned to the scene of the crime Monday, scouring the woods where the car crashed, looking for evidence the killer may have left behind.
Police found Vanessa Pham's body inside. She had trauma to the upper body but it was not the kind of injuries you would see in a car crash and there were other things that just didn't seem right.
"The steering wheel, the positioning of the instruments did not match the injuries on her body. In addition, detectives don't feel the vehicle was traveling very fast," said Officer Bud Walker, a spokesperson with Fairfax County Police.
Pham's family last saw her late Sunday morning a few hours before the car crash. She was a typical 19-year old headed out to see friends.
"She was a good girl," her mother Julie Pham said. "She got along with her friend. She was very happy yesterday.”
Then police called saying Vanessa had been killed. Now her mother is devastated and desperate for answers.
"I tried to call her from work late night. I never got her," Julie Pham said.
It didn't worry her at first because Vanessa did not always answer and preferred text messages.
Vanessa was her only child and an aspiring fashion designer. Her mother and aunt now cling to the pieces of her short life: the drawings, awards and her diploma from James Madison High School where she graduated last year. She'd won awards for her artistic talent from elementary through high school and just completed her first year at Savannah College of Art and Design.
She had been home from college for just two weeks. Her mother said Vanessa had just found a job. On Tuesday, her boyfriend from college was coming to visit so Vanessa could introduce him to the family. Now instead of planning for her future, they are buried in grief.
"I want to know how she died," said Pham. "I just want justice."
A Fairfax County Police detective met the family at their Falls Church apartment trying to retrace the last hours of her life and find the person who killed her. Police say it is a highly unusual case.
"I cannot think of a case that is like this at all in my ten years with the department," said Officer Walker.
Police say there was no sign of a murder weapon or motive and won't say how exactly Vanessa died.
"Middle of the day. I don't know what happened to her," said Pham.
Her mother doesn't know what motive anyone could have for killing a young woman so loved by so many.
To donate to Vanessa Pham's Memorial Fund, Money and Check donations can go to:
Navy Federal Credit Union
Vanessa Pham Memorial Fund
PO Box 3100
Merrifield, VA 22119-3100
WTTG FOX 5 & myfoxdc
Didn't find what you were looking for?