Orange County District Attorney
Tony Rackauckas, District Attorney
401 Civic Center Drive West
Santa Ana, CA 92701
For Immediate Release
March 19, 2010
Susan Kang Schroeder
NORTH CAROLINA MAN SENTENCED TO 27 YEARS TO LIFE FOR STABBING AND MURDERING FORTUNE TELLER AND HER DAUGHTER
*A jury recommended the death penalty for the co-defendant in this case
SANTA ANA – A North Carolina man was sentenced today to 27 years to life in state prison for murdering an Orange County fortune teller and her daughter. Phillipe Zamora, 55, Roanoke Rapids, NC, pleaded guilty April 14, 2009, to two felony counts of first degree murder.
On March 2, 2010, a jury recommended the death penalty for Zamora’s co-defendant, Tanya Jaime Nelson, 46, also of Roanoke Rapids, NC. Nelson was found guilty by a jury Feb. 16. 2010, of two felony counts of special circumstances murder. The special circumstances include murder of multiple victims, murder during the commission of robbery, and murder by lying in wait. Nelson faces a formal sentencing on March 26, 2010, at 9:00 a.m. in Department C-35, Central Justice Center, Santa Ana.
Victim Ha Smith, 52, was a fortune teller who worked from her home in Westminster. The victim had clients throughout the country. Smith’s 23-year-old daughter, Anita Vo, was a college student. In April 2005, Nelson and Zamora flew from North Carolina to Orange County with the intent to rob the victim, who was known to wear expensive jewelry. Nelson knew the victim because Nelson and Zamora’s wife had been clients.
On April 21, 2005, Nelson and Zamora went to Smith’s home under the pretense of visiting and having Nelson’s fortune told. Nelson formulated a plan to murder Smith and Vo in order to rob the victim. Using knives from the kitchen, Nelson stabbed and murdered Vo as Zamora stabbed and murdered Smith. The defendants left Smith face down on the kitchen floor. Smith bled to death after being stabbed in the head, face, neck, shoulders, and hands. The defendants left Vo on the floor of the laundry room with her head jutting out into the hallway that led to the kitchen. Vo bled to death due to multiple stab wounds to her head, face, and neck.
After murdering the victims, the defendants attempted to wash the bloody kitchen knives and wrap them in plastic bags. Nelson and Zamora ransacked the victims’ home and stole personal items including cell phones, purses, jewelry, and credit cards.
Nelson and Zamora then drove to Walmart to purchase paint, returned to the victims’ home, and poured white paint on Smith and Vo’s heads and hands. Zamora covered Vo’s face with a black shirt.
On April 22, 2005, the defendants returned to North Carolina. That day, officers from the Westminster Police Department (WPD) discovered the victims after receiving a call requesting a welfare check from a concerned friend, who became alarmed when he did not hear from Vo. WPD began investigating the case.
Nelson returned to Orange County in May 2005 after purchasing plane tickets