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Santa Ana nightclub victim died of blunt force trauma to head

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An autopsy found that the woman who was beaten outside a downtown Santa Ana lounge early Saturday died of complications from blunt-force trauma to the head, the Santa Ana Police Department said.

Kim Pham, 23, of Huntington Beach was hit and kicked in a fight outside The Crosby. One person has been charged in her death and four others are being sought.

Pham, a recent Chapman University graduate who aspired to become a writer and talk-show host, was declared brain-dead shortly after she was admitted to the hospital and was pronounced dead Tuesday after being taken off life support.

Vanesa Tapia Zavala, 25, is being held in lieu of $1-million bail and faces a single murder charge in the death of Pham, who was hit and kicked outside The Crosby.

Her attorney, Kenneth Reed, said Wednesday that not only did his client not take part in the attack, Zavala was actually struck and knocked to the ground herself during the incident.

At one point she was on her hands and knees looking for her cellphone, which detectives later recovered. Zavala is one of five people suspected of attacking Pham.

A $10,000 reward if being offered for information leading to the arrest of the other four, two women and two men. The incident has also raised issues about safety in downtown Santa Ana as new businesses continue to attract more outsiders.

The incident early Saturday was captured on video from cellphones, some of which has been reviewed by police, said Cpl. Anthony Bertagna, spokesman for the Santa Ana Police Department. Investigators are also reviewing surveillance footage from the area.

Police have not said what prompted the argument, but Pham's friends said it may have started after she accidentally stepped in front of a camera as a group of people posed for a photo as they waited to enter The Crosby. 

However Michael Molfetta, a defense attorney for a potential suspect in the fatal beating, said it was Pham who threw the first punch following a verbal argument after someone from Zavala’s group bumped into her.

Molfetta said police were hasty in arresting Zavala and that Santa Ana detectives know who the four other suspects are, yet have made no arrests.

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adolfo.flores@latimes.com

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