|For Immediate Release
Case # 05WF1591
January 13, 2010
|Susan Kang Schroeder
Public Affairs Counsel
NORTH CAROLINA WOMAN FACES TRIAL FOR 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 pleaded guilty to the murders
SANTA ANA – A North Carolina woman faces trial tomorrow for stabbing and 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, is charged with two felony counts of special circumstances murder, and one felony count each of conspiracy, first degree residential burglary, and first degree robbery. The special circumstances include murder of multiple victims, murder for financial gain, murder during the commission of a burglary, murder during the commission of robbery, and murder by lying in wait. The District Attorney is seeking the death penalty in this case. Opening statements are expected to begin tomorrow, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2010, at 9:15 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. Zamora is expected to testify during the trial against Nelson.
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 is accused of flying 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 is accused of going to Smith’s home with Zamora under the pretense of visiting and having Nelson’s fortune told. Nelson is accused of formulating a plan to murder Smith and Vo in order to rob the victim. Using knives from the kitchen, Nelson is accused of stabbing and murdering Vo as Zamora stabbed and murdered Smith. The defendants are accused of leaving Smith face down on the kitchen floor. Smith bled to death after being stabbed in the head, face, neck, shoulders, and hands. The defendants are accused of leaving 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 are accused of attempting to wash bloody kitchen knives and wrapping them in plastic bags. Nelson is accused of ransacking the victims’ home with Zamora and stealing personal items including cell phones, purses, jewelry, and credit cards.
Nelson is accused of then driving with Zamora to Walmart to purchase paint, returning to the victims’ home, and pouring white paint on Smith and Vo’s heads and hands. Zamora covered Vo’s face with a black shirt.