FAIRFAX, Va. (WUSA9) -- The man who murdered Falls Church college student Vanessa Pham was officially sentenced to 49 years behind bars today. Just before being sentenced, Julio Blanco Garcia apologized to his victim's family.
"I would like to say to Ms. Pham's family and friends, that I am deeply sorry for what I did. And that I hope, that I hope that my punishment will help them in their grieving process," said Blanco Garcia.
He stood in a dark green jail shirt and pants as he spoke those words, never looking at the Pham family or friends seated behind him.
Judge Jane Roush said, "I have given a lot consideration to this case and considered e jury's recommendation appropriate."
In the August trial, the jury watched a cell phone video of 19 year old Vanessa Pham talking to her mother.
At sentencing today, Chief Deputy Commonwealth Attorney Casey Lingan read from the mother's victim impact statement:
"Society has lost a beautiful, compassionate, ambitious young woman who would have lived a full life if it were not taken from her. My dreams of her finishing college, falling in love, getting married and giving me grandchildren has all been taken from me.... I have a tomestone where I go to visit Vanessa and all I can do is place fresh flowers and have a one-way conversation."
During the trial, the jury watched Blanco Garcia's video-taped police interview and confession of the killing. In it, Blanco Garcia said he was hallucinating and high on PCP. With his baby in his arms, he flagged down Pham and convinced her to drive him to the hospital. He said when she took a wrong turn, he freaked out, and fearing for his baby's life, he took out his knife and killed Pham. He stabbed her 13 times.
Prosecutors dispute the PCP defense and Blanco Garcia's story that Vanessa Pham took a wrong turn. Though there was no evidence of a intent to rape, prosecutors allege that is what he was trying to do and why Pham fought back.
"He used an innocent baby as a lure to get an innocent person who was extremely kindhearted and gentle, to get her defenses down, to help somebody who pretended to be in need. And then to murder her in such a brutal fashion, it's just horrific," said Commonwealth's Attorney Ray Morrogh.
Blanco Garcia's prison sentence won't be up until he's 76 years old.
Julio Blanco Garcia was found guilty murdering Vanessa Pham in Fairfax, Va. in August. Friday, he was sentenced to 49 years. The jury had recommended this sentence back in August.
Blanco Garcia murdered Pham on June 27, 2010 in a parking lot at a Falls Church shopping center. Authorities say Blanco Garcia approached Pham at a Falls Church shopping center with his infant daughter. Police had video of Blanco Garcia leaving the Great Wall of China store with his baby, yet that video was never released to the public until trial.
At the beginning of the sentencing, Blanco Garcia, who wore dark green jail attire, stared down at the desk in front of him, showing no emotion. A probation officer assigned to the pre-sentence report outline Blanco Garcia's criminal history, finding no juvenile records, gang affiliations or felonies. He said that Blanco Garcia had abused drugs for a decade and attempted to commit suicide twice.
According to the officer, incarceration changed Blanco Garcia's life for the better. He said Garcia has expressed remorse for Pham's death.
Blanco Garcia's defense attorney said the fact that he submitted fingerprints and didn't flee the area after the crime proves Blanco Garcia has a conscience. The defense attorney also claimed that Blanco Garcia sat emotionless because he understood the gravity of his actions.
Blanco Garcia is an undocumented immigrant from Guatemala. He is expected to serve his sentence in Virginia and may be eligigle for geriatric release before he turns 76.
Written by Peggy Fox