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article imageJury convicts client in murder of California fortune teller

By Salim Jiwa     Feb 17, 2010 in Crime
The district attorney in Orange County, California says he'll be seeking the death penalty for a woman who was convicted of killing a fortune teller and her daughter. The killer was a client who killed the fortune teller to steal her expensive jewelry.
SANTA ANA, California - It was a tragedy a fortune teller in Orange County could not have seen coming. But the future is sure for a North Carolina woman who murdered her and her daughter - if the district attorney in Orange County has his way..
Tanya Jaime Nelson, 45, Roanoke Rapids, NC, was found guilty on Tuesday 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 on Feb.
Nelson’s co-defendant, Phillipe Zamora, 55, also of Roanoke Rapids, NC, pleaded guilty in April 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.
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, said an emailed statement from the Orange County District Attorney's office which detailed the evidence submitted in court.
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, evidence showed.
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, 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 with the victims’ credit cards to go on a shopping spree at South Coast Plaza.
On May 30, 2005, Nelson was arrested by detectives from WPD at a Holiday Inn in Santa Ana. At the time of her arrest, Nelson was in possession of the victims’ stolen credit cards, identification cards, and designer luggage. Zamora was arrested June 1, 2005, at his home in North Carolina.
More about Fortune teller, Murder orange county, Death penalty
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