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Woman found guilty in fortuneteller slaying

Tanya Nelson, 45, is convicted of special-circumstances murder in the stabbings of Ha Jade Smith and her daughter, Anita Vo. Prosecutors said Nelson blamed Smith for telling a bad fortune.

February 17, 2010|By My-Thuan Tran
  • Prosecutors said Ha Jade Smith, and her daughter, were killed by a client who was unhappy with her fortune.
Prosecutors said Ha Jade Smith, and her daughter, were killed by a client…

A woman was convicted Tuesday in the bizarre killing of a Westminster fortuneteller and her daughter four years ago that prosecutors said was motivated by a spell that didn't work.

After less than a day of deliberations, an Orange County jury found Tanya Nelson, 45, of North Carolina guilty of murder with special circumstances in the slayings of fortuneteller Ha Jade Smith, 52, and Anita Vo, 23.

Nelson faces the death penalty at her sentencing hearing next week.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Sonia Balleste argued in court that Nelson blamed Smith for telling a bad fortune and was so angered that she decided to travel to Orange County to kill her.

Smith and Vo were found stabbed and covered in white paint in their home. Credit cards, jewelry and cash were also taken from the home.

Five weeks later, police arrested Nelson in Orange County, after she had assumed the identities of the victims and spent more than $3,000 in a shopping spree at South Coast Plaza.

Balleste argued that Nelson was the mastermind of the slayings and that she persuaded a friend, Phillipe Zamora, to take part in the April 21, 2005, plot.

The prosecution relied on the testimony of Zamora, who pleaded guilty last year to two counts of first-degree murder and could be sentenced to 50 years to life.

Zamora testified that Nelson ordered him to stab Smith and that he panicked after seeing Nelson attack Vo.

The jury rejected the argument by defense attorney Ken Reed that Zamora acted alone and that he testified against Nelson to avoid harsher punishment. Reed also argued that there was no physical evidence placing Nelson at the scene of the crime.

my-thuan.tran@latimes.com

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