Orange County District Attorney
Tony Rackauckas, District Attorney
401 Civic Center Drive West
Santa Ana, CA 92701
For Immediate Release
Susan Kang Schroeder
NORTH CAROLINA WOMAN CONVICTED OF
STABBING AND MURDERING FORTUNE TELLER AND DAUGHTER FOR FINANCIAL GAIN
*The District Attorney is seeking the death penalty in this case; a co-defendant has also been convicted
SANTA ANA – A North Carolina woman was convicted today of murdering an Orange County fortune teller and her daughter with the intention of robbing the victim, including stealing her expensive jewelry. Tanya Jaime Nelson, 45, Roanoke Rapids, NC, was found guilty by a jury 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. The District Attorney is seeking the death penalty in this case. The penalty phase of the trial against Nelson is scheduled to begin Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2010, at 9:00 a.m. in Department C-35, Central Justice Center, Santa Ana.
Nelson’s co-defendant, Phillipe Zamora, 55, also of Roanoke Rapids, NC, pleaded guilty April 14, 2009, to two felony counts of first degree murder. He faces a maximum sentence of 50 years to life in state prison at his sentencing Feb. 26, 2010, in Department C-35.
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 flew from North Carolina with Zamora 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 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, wh