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Miss Ha (Jade) Smith (52), a respected and skilled fortuneteller, and her daughter, Anita Vo (23), college student, were familiar with their killer.
Anita Vo Ha Jade Smith
SInce Miss Ha is known nationally among Vietnamese-Americans for her card and palm reading skills, spellcasting and wisdom, it is not unusual for her to have a long time client such as Tanya Nelson, of Roanoke Rapids, NorthCarolina.
Due to the nature of her business, she usually has large amounts of cash and jewelry at hand in her home where she does her readings. Miss Ha loves to wear jewelry, and owns a large collection.
A PRIOR ROBBERY
2001 - Miss Ha is the victim of a robbery. Two men force their way into her home and tie up Miss
Ha. They then ransack her home, stealing $372,00 worth of jewelry and cash. After the theft
Miss Ha is security conscious and arranges for new locks and heavy iron bars to be
GET OVER IT
Nelson's lover has dumped her and she want Miss Ha to read her fortune...but what she really
wants is for her lover to come back to her. She wants a spell cast. When it's apparent that her former lover isn't going to miraculously fall back into her arms, Tanya Nelson writes a letter to
Miss Ha. In the letter she states that she wants Miss Ha to "change her fortune." In response Miss Ha writes Nelson and says "I can't change reality." Nelson is angered. So angered over
the "bad fortune" that she plots murder over her "misfortune."
DOUBLE MURDER & THEFT
2005 - April - 1 - Tanya Nelson has scheduled a reading for her fortune with Miss Ha..
Accompanying her is Phillipe Zamora. Zamora's wife is known to Miss
Ha, as she has availed herself of Miss Ha's services in the past.
Tanya Jamie Nelson aka Phyong Thao Nguyen Phillipe Zamora
(Allegedly) Phillipe Zamora is secretly gay and Nelson has lured him to
assist her by promising to introduce him to gay men for sex. Nelson
tells him that she wants Miss Ha dead because she's angry that Miss
Ha had done a fortune telling for her and it wasn't accurate, she deserved
to die because Miss Ha had cheated her out of her money.
(According to Phillipe Zamora) During the reading, Tanya Nelson suddenly screams
at him to "Do it!" as she begins to stab Anita Vo. Panicking, grabbing a knife from
Miss Ha's kitchen he begins stabbing Miss Ha. Both women attempt to defend
themselves by raising their hands, fighting back and trying to get away from their
attackers, to no avail. Both Miss Ha and Anita Vo have been stabbed at least 10
Miss Ha is stabbed multiple times in the head, face and neck, shoulders and hands.
She lies face down on the kitchen floor, bleeding to death. Anita Vo is on the laundry
room floor. Her head juts out into the hallway leading from the kitchen, bleeding to
death from multiple stab wounds to her head, face and neck.
Nelson & Zamora run water over the knives in an attempt to wash them.
They wrap the knives into plastic bags.
They ransack the home, drawers are turned out, papers scattered, furniture
overturned. Nelson & Zamora steal cell phones, purses, jewelry. and credit cards.
Despite their zeal to steal, they do not find hidden jewelry and cash.
Tanya Nelson drives Zamora to Walmart where they purchase white paint.
Re-entering the house, they pour white paint over Miss Ha & Anita Vo's
heads and hands. Zamora throws a black shirt over Anita Vo's face.
Nelson tells Zamora Anita Vo was murdered because Tanya Nelson felt
Anita had also "deceived her, and cheated her, like her mom. They both
deserved to die."
2005 - April - 22 - Tanya Nelson & Phillipe Zamora arrive home in North Carolina.
That same day, a concerned friend is worried. They haven't heard from Miss Anita
Vo in some time. The person notifies Westminster Police, who do a welfare
check. What they find is a double murder scene.
Detective Tim Vu "I haven't come across anybody else who h as had a case in
which the victim's heads and hands were covered in paint.
I've had calls from colleagues in other departments too. They
feel kind of fascinated by that. It's just not something that
happens. This is by far the most bizarre thing I've seen."
Investigators believe that Miss Ha Smith and Miss Vo knew their killer or killers.
Their is no forced entry, the bars on the windows are in place and the doors are
Investigators learn that Tanya Nelson had flown from N.C. to Orange County for an appointment
with Miss Ha scheduled for the day of the murders.
2005 - May - Tanya Nelson purchases plane tickets with Ms. Smith & Ms. Vo's credit cards.
She flies into Orange County where she intends to go on a shopping spree.
Tracking the credit cards, investigators find that Nelson is using the victim's credit cards.
May - 30 - Tanya Nelson is arrested at the Santa Ana Holiday Inn.
In her possession are stolen credit cards, identification cards
and designer luggage.
2005 - June - 1 - Phillipe Zamora is arrested at his home in North Carolina and brought back
2009 - April - 14 - Phillipe Zamora (55) pleads Guilty to two counts of First-Degree Murder.
He faces 50 years to life in prison. He agrees to be a witness against
2010 - February - 1- Phillipe Zamora testifies against Tanya Nelson aka Phyong Thao Nguyen.
Testimony included: Nelson said Miss Ha had predicted that her (Nelson's)
business would do well if she relocated from Orange County, Ca. to
North Carolina. Nelson relocated but the business wasn't successful and
she lost her house as a result. Nelson wanted Miss Ha dead.
Nelson was angry about her "fortune" and that Ha Smith had cheated her
out of money because she did the fortune telling for her and it was not
accurate. Nelson told him after the killings that Vo also deceived and
cheated her, like her mom. The two deserved to die.
Nelson wore two pairs of gloves during the murders. Nelson ordered him
to stab Miss Ha, and he panicked after seeing Nelson stabbing Miss Vo.
After the murders Tanya Nelson ransacked their house and stole money,
jewelry and credit cards.
Nicky Phan Ngo (Miss Ha Jade Smith's older sister) of Vancouver B.C.
"We want to see justice served. It has been painful to sit in court several feet from
the woman on trial for my sister's slaying. I feel like every day is the same. It's
like the day when I got the horrible news."
Ken Reed (Defense Attorney) "Zamora acted alone, and he lied repeatedly through his
testimony. Zamora testified against Tanya Nelson to avoid harsher punishment."
"Zamora has big cracks in his sotry. And his story is their case."
"No DNA evidence placed Nelson at the victim's Westminister home the day of the
killings. Zamora's DNA was on the handles of the two kitchen knives used in the
Sonia Balleste (Deputy District Attorney) "Nelson orchestrated the murders with Zamora
by promising to introduce him to gay sex partners in Orange County if he would help her."
She cited Zamora's testimony "Nelson wore two pairs of gloves during the killings."
"He [Zamora] is not on trial. She is."
VERDICT - GUILTY
2010 - February - 16 - The jury finds Tanya Nelson (45) GUILTY and that she committed the
murders for the purposes of theft. That she traveled to California
intending to murder Miss Ha Jade Smith for her expensive jewelry.
She is convicted of Robbery. She had assumed Miss Ha's identity to
buy clothing and plane tickets for a family vacation in Southern CA.,
and for stole expensive jewelry belonging to Miss Ha Smith.
2010 - February - 23 - PENALTY PHASE is scheduled to begin in Santa Ana, California.