Opening statements began Monday in the trial of the man accused of killing local college student Vanessa Pham more than three years ago.
Julio Blanco Garcia is accused of stabbing Pham to death after smoking PCP.
His lawyer says the murder was not premeditated as the prosecution claims.
In his opening statement to the jury, Prosecutor Casey Lingan said Pham had just returned from her first year in college and was looking for a summer job when she was stabbed to death by Blanco Garcia.
"For two and a half years, this investigation would continue on," said Lingan. "For two and a half years, this murder would evade detection. Then a break in the case came in the form of a fingerprint match. The defendant's fingerprints were found on the knife of the murder weapon and what happened is the knife had broken from the handle in that vehicle and the murderer had left that butcher knife in the vehicle."
The Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney also told the jury Blanco Garcia's fingerprints were found on the passenger door of Pham's wrecked car and his DNA was found on the blade of the knife.
It was nothing the defense took issue with in its opening statement. Instead, they admitting Blanco Garcia was to blame, but only up to a point.
"This is not a case about who, it's a case about why," said Defense Attorney Alberto Salvado. "It's a perfect storm of tragedy intertwined the defendant's life and the life of Ms. Pham. It's a freak set of circumstances, anyone of which altered ever so slightly, may have resulted in a different outcome. At the end of this case, Mr. Bernhard and I will ask you to find him guilty, but guilty of the crime that he committed, not of the crime the commonwealth suggests."
Salvado told the jury Blanco Garcia set out that day with his infant daughter and a knife with the intent to steal a television.
He got on a bus, but was so high on PCP, he got off at the Fairfax Plaza Shopping Center where he asked Pham for a ride to the hospital.
Salvado told the jury Blanco Garcia was starting to flip out, and when Pham took a wrong turn, he sensed danger and pulled the knife.
Throughout the day's testimony, Blanco Garcia kept his head down, staring at the defense table, looking at none of the exhibits.
One of the first witnesses in the case was Officer Daniel Pang. He found Pham inside the car and told the court he thought she was the victim of an accident until he noticed slits in the front of her shirt and what appeared to be stab wounds in her chest. He then told the court about finding a black and silver knife handle between the driver's seat and console.
This is the first time in decades that a television camera has been allowed in a Fairfax County courtroom. It will be allowed for the rest of the trial, which is expected to last about six days.
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