Skip to comments.TALE OF TWO LAWERS (Feldmand vs. Dusek) DEFEATED and DECIETFUL.(VD's SKATE FREE TO SWING AGAIN)
Posted on 08/22/2002 11:32:19 PM PDT by FresnoDA
SAN DIEGO ---- David Alan Westerfield was found guilty Wednesday of kidnapping and murdering his 7-year-old neighbor, Danielle van Dam, whose disappearance early this year was the first in a series of high-profile child abductions nationwide.
The same jury that convicted the twice-divorced, self-employed design engineer will now decide whether he faces life in prison or death by lethal injection.
Click above for
|Damon and Brenda van Dam react in the courtroom as the verdict is read
From left, Laura Schaefer, David Westerfield, Robert Boyce and Steven Feldman as the verdict is read.
Chronology of events in the case of Danielle van Dam:
Feb. 1, 2002 -- Danielle van Dam is last seen when her father puts her to bed about 10 p.m. in her family's suburban San Diego home.
Feb. 2 -- Danielle's parents report her missing. Volunteers begin searching for the 7-year-old.
Feb. 2-3 -- David Westerfield spends weekend traveling around San Diego County in his motor home, stopping in the desert east of the city.
Feb. 5-6 -- Police search Westerfield's home twice and impound two of his vehicles, including the motor home. The search turns up child pornography.
Feb. 22 -- Police arrest Westerfield for investigation of kidnapping after Danielle's blood is found on an item of his clothing and in his motor home.
Feb. 26 -- Westerfield is arraigned on charges of murder, kidnapping and possession of child pornography. He pleads innocent.
Feb. 27 -- Volunteers discover the nude body of a girl 25 miles east of San Diego.
Feb. 28 -- An autopsy confirms the body is that of Danielle.
April 25 -- Prosecutors announce they will seek death penalty in case against Westerfield.
May 17 -- Jury selection begins in trial of Westerfield.
June 4 -- Trial begins.
Aug. 8 -- Jury begins deliberations following two months of trial and two days of closing arguments.
Aug. 21 -- Jury returns its verdict on its 10th day of deliberations.
As the court clerk read the verdicts, the little girl's mother, Brenda van Dam, sobbed with her head on her husband's shoulder. Outside the courthouse, hundreds cheered.
A trembling Westerfield, dressed in a charcoal gray suit and white button-down shirt, swallowed hard and blinked frequently but otherwise stared straight ahead as the verdicts were read. Several jurors seemed upset. Two of them, one man and one woman, appeared to wipe away tears.
The verdicts close a chapter in one of San Diego County's most publicized cases, which included admissions of drug use and wife-swapping. Reporters from all over the country gathered at the courthouse during the two-month-long trial. Local TV stations covered it gavel to gavel.
Ten days' deliberation
The jury found Westerfield, 50, guilty after deliberating 10 days in a secluded room at the downtown San Diego courthouse. The panel also convicted him of a misdemeanor charge of possessing child pornography.
Westerfield was arrested three weeks after Danielle was reported missing from her second-story bedroom the first weekend of February. Volunteer searchers found the second-grader's nude and decomposing body in rural East County on Feb. 27.
Westerfield's defense team requested that the jury of six men and six women be individually polled on each of the three counts and the special circumstance of committing a murder during a kidnapping, which qualifies Westerfield for the death penalty.
All jurors, including juror No. 10, the foreman, verified their verdicts with a single-word reply: Yes. Some answered in loud, strong voices. Others seemed shaken. Jurors were later secreted out of the courthouse.
Extra deputies were stationed inside the courtroom. Two stood near Westerfield. One by the jury box. Two others stood at the front and back doors.
Gag order in place
The attorneys, Danielle's parents and Westerfield's sister left without comment. All parties in the case remain under a court-imposed gag order until the penalty phase is complete.
Westerfield's former brother-in-law, John Neal, said he was "in shock" as he left the courtroom.
The van Dams and their friends left through a private exit to avoid reporters and photographers, as did defense attorneys and prosecutors.
Through a family spokeswoman, the van Dams said they will not comment on the case until the penalty phase is completed.
"The van Dams kindly request privacy here at their home for the sake of their two boys," Sara Muller Fraunces told reporters gathered at the family's Sabre Springs neighborhood.
Outside the courthouse, District Attorney Paul Pfingst, trying to avoid violating the gag order, kept his comments brief. "I'm proud of the work my prosecutors have done," he said.
San Diego Police Chief David Bejarano addressed the media shortly after the verdicts were read but said he, too, was limited in his comments due to the court order.
"Our people gathered and analyzed the evidence in a highly professional manner," Bejarano said. "Their testimony in court was evidence of their skill and their dedication to finding Danielle's killer. We firmly believed Mr. Westerfield was that person and I am gratified the jury looked at all the evidence and believed so, too."
Jury back Wednesday
Jurors are set to return Wednesday to hear testimony and arguments on whether Westerfield should be sentenced to death or spend the rest of his life in prison. They will then once again retreat behind closed doors to decide Westerfield's fate.
On Friday, prosecutors and defense attorneys are scheduled to meet with the judge to decide what evidence and testimony will be presented to the jury during the penalty phase. Defense lawyer Steven Feldman has asked for a "Phillips hearing" to try to keep evidence from being presented to the jury.
A Phillips hearing is held when prosecutors have evidence, such as police reports or witness testimony, of a separate criminal or violent act or threat of a violent act that occurred before the crime for which the defendant is now charged or convicted.
The hearing is to determine if the evidence is strong enough to be presented to the jury.
"If the court decides there is no testimony, it will be simply reading the police reports," Deputy District Attorney Jeff Dusek said.
During the scheduling discussion, Judge William Mudd said that parts of those hearings will be closed to the press and the public.
A case of sexual fantasy
Prosecutors built their case on the theory that Westerfield abducted Danielle to act out his sexual fantasies about young girls.
The medical examiner testified he could not determine a cause of death or whether she had been sexually assaulted.
Westerfield's defense attorneys said their client was innocent and turned the spotlight on Brenda and Damon van Dam, saying their lifestyle of admitted drug use and sex with other couples may have attracted the true perpetrator into their home.
Westerfield and Danielle lived two houses apart in the upper middle-class enclave of Sabre Springs. The van Dams testified they didn't know Westerfield's name until right before Danielle disappeared.
Outside the courthouse, 300 to 400 people gathered around the makeshift TV studios known as "Camp Westerfield" that have been set up along the street since the trial began June 4.
Many huddled around small televisions airing live feeds from the court. The crowd erupted into cheers as the first verdict was read.
National coverage of the case began almost immediately after Danielle's abduction. Her tragic story was eclipsed only by the soap-operalike quality of Westerfield's trial with eight weeks of testimony about extramarital sex, DNA evidence and the use of insects to narrow down time of death.
The case unfolded with remarkable speed.
Police quickly began focusing their attention on Westerfield when he was the only van Dam neighbor authorities were unable to contact after she was reported missing. On Feb. 22, Westerfield was arrested in front of his attorney's office. Five days later, Danielle's body was found.
100 witnesses, 199 exhibits
Within four months of her disappearance, Westerfield was on trial. Nearly 100 witnesses took the stand and 199 exhibits were presented to the jury. Murder cases normally take a year or more to reach the courts but Westerfield's went to court quickly when he asked to exercise his right to a speedy trial.
The prosecution's case centered primarily on circumstantial evidence. Experts testified that Danielle's hair, blood and fingerprints were found in Westerfield's motor home or on his clothes. More hairs that could be Danielle's were also recovered from his house. Orange and blue fibers similar to one found tangled in the girl's necklace and others in her body bag were found in his bedroom, laundry and sport utility vehicle.
Prosecutors said Danielle was likely killed less than a day after she was taken and Westerfield spent the weekend driving his motor home on a rambling 550-mile trek from the coast to the desert and back to the coast searching for a place to leave her body.
Defense attorneys had pinned their best hope for acquittal on the life cycle of flies. They called several bug experts, who testified insect activity showed Danielle's body was discarded after Westerfield was under police surveillance.
Jurors asked to hear testimony from one of the bug experts and the medical examiner during their deliberations. They came to their verdict two days later.
Staff writer Marty Graham contributed to this report. Contact staff writer Kimberly Epler at (760) 739-6644 or email@example.com.
By Thomas K. Arnold
Club Paradise, according to its Web site, is situated in the back hills of the El Cajon Valley, nestled in a secluded, yet easy to access area. The facility offers a high-class, home-party style environment and boasts 5,000 square feet of fun, including a swimming pool, spa and backyard fire pit to socialize with your new friends while warming your erogenous zones.
Guests are welcome to bring some goodies (besides your wife)and once their erogenous zones are sufficiently warmed, they may choose from plenty of play areas ... most prefer the living room floor or kitchen, but [private] rooms are always available.
Club CB is an on-line club providing a safe meeting place for sensuous consenting adults. Member parties promise the hottest couples, the best facilities, very tasty buffet dinners, scrumptious desserts and a staff dedicated to ensuring your experience is clean, fun and safe.
Club CB party organizers boast they specialize in stirring up erotic sensations and placing our members in the ideal environment to meet and expand friendships with the most exciting people in San Diego County ... all while raising funds for local charity foundations contributing to the research for multiple sclerosis and other debilitating diseases.
Welcome to the wonderfuland apparently charitableworld of swinging, San Diego style.
Tony Lanzaratta, a retired Los Angeles police officer who, as executive director of NASCA International, probably has a better handle on swinging than anyone else in the country, stops short of saying San Diego is a hotbed for what he calls play couples.
Its impossible to chart, Lanzaratta says. But I travel a lot, and I know one thing: I meet a lot of people from San Diego.
He says there are half a dozen organized swing clubs in San Diego County, some in private homes and some in commercial buildings. None is openly marked. San Diego is a very conservative city, he says, so you just cant do that.
Thomas K. Arnold
Talk show host Rick Roberts made headlines with his KFMB-AM radio show about Damon and Brenda van Dams allegedly swinging lifestyle. But he wasnt the only radio personalityor media outletto cast a critical eye on the backstory of the Danielle van Dam kidnapping case.
John Kobylt and Ken Chiampou, whose John and Ken Show airs weekdays from 3 to 7 p.m. on Los Angeles station KFI-AM, devoted three shows to the case, even traveling to San Diego to broadcast from the van Dams Sabre Springs neighborhood. The week before that, they were the first to cast aspersions on the van Dams, a full day before the Roberts broadcast.
The Millennium Childrens Fund had just announced a $10,000 reward for information leading to the safe return of Danielle. Fund administrator Douglas Pierce had visited with the van Dams, and the next day he called a press conference in Los Angeles at which he voiced suspicions about the couples behavior. For an hour, Pierce blasted the van Dams for their apparent lack of emotion and general rudeness to him.
I dont know how much was true and how much was hysterical, but thats what made it fascinating. We tried to unravel it on the air, Kobylt says. In retrospect, I think he did peg their personalities very wellthe lack of emotion, the detachment, the obsession with the media messageand perhaps he got the vibe that they live a different life than most people.
As soon as Pierce finished on-air, John and Ken introduced their next guests: an angry Damon and Brenda van Dam, who lambasted Pierce as a nut case. We had scheduled them in advance, but when they heard Doug was on the show, they canceled, only to change their minds right before show time, Kobylt says.
After the interview, John and Ken picked apart the conversation and spoke critically about the van Dams lack of emotion and their defensiveness about questions pertaining to their own behavior and actions the last night Danielle was seen. The next day, the swinger story broke in The San Diego Union-Tribunefurthered that evening on San Diego radio by Rick Roberts.
Its a very dramatic story, says Kobylt. Everybody got obsessed with it pretty quickly... We have a pretty fair audience in San Diegoweve even made it into the top 10 on occasionand we started getting calls from people who live in the neighborhood and know the van Dams. As a result, it might as well have been in L.A. I tend to look at the whole [Southern California] area as the same, anyway.
(By press deadline, the van Dams could not be reached for comment by San Diego Magazine.)
While the van Dam case has been duly covered by most of the mainstream media, the Star tabloid stoked the flames of controversy with a front-page banner that screamed, The new JonBenetwhat Danielles mom and dad are hiding. Inside was a two-page story headlined, Tragedy of little Danielleand the dark sex secrets her parents are trying to keep hidden.
Quoting the proverbial unnamed sources close to the probe, the Star reported that later-arrested suspect David Westerfield was aware of the van Dams sexual activities and had approached Brenda about hosting a sex-swap party in his house. The Star said Brenda had admitted to police that the couple belonged to a swingers club called Club CB and that sources say she flirted outrageously and danced with Westerfield the Friday night Danielle disappeared. He [Westerfield] knew that Brenda and her friends were sexually involved, and he wanted to be part of the action, but for whatever reason, he was not invited by Brenda to accompany her and her four friends back to her home that night for more partying and sex, the Star says it was told by a source.
I have a couple of things to throw into the pot, here, that I hope will get kicked around.
First, I hope Feldman has and keeps bugs(of the electronic variety) in place and monitored on the VD circle amd LE perps. DW's life savings is a hefty paycheck for a couple month's work.
Second, I want to give some of the very resourceful researchers on these threads a little nudge...
Several years ago, because it was announced that a nudist colony opened not too far from here, I searched the web for info about nudism. I found lots of info by people who were former nudists saying lots of bad stuff...
You would be surprised how neatly swinging and child molesting are tied together in several of the pages you will find if you look.
I know I have been something of a leech on these threads, letting others do the research and all, but I just don't have the time. Someone who wants to spend a day checking it out will get a much more concrete picture of the unhealthy social and family dynamics that arise when perv "adult" sexuality is indulged without concern for the kids.
I think the search for info on "swingers" is giving info which is disproportionately supportive of the subject for some reason. Maybe the critics aren't using that terminology so much on their pages.
If you look you will find that nudist colonies are havens for both swingers and molesters, you will find stories about parents whose kids were molested and who were stonewalled by camp management as to the real name of the perp, nationwide conspiracies among camp managers and long-time members to traffic and share child porn, and more...
Lots of families like the VDs, who don't bother with the reversed locks, or even a wall for that matter.
Check it out, someone...
So many were coming and going for sex at their home that they didn't bother to check their doors or their own security alarms.
They are guilty of negligence and endangerment. They'll never be charged, but they know it.
Take any liberal rockstar, politician, highschool shooters, activists,& whatever....
...when they're accused of a crime, the media pulls folks out of the woodwork to tell us what good people they are....moms, sisters, friends tell us they couldn't have done such a thing.(& they tell us this with the media's blessings!)
Contrast this to the coverage of Westerfield.
I can't reasonably think everyone is so cowed by the media slant that some wouldn't have wanted to defend this guy....(his sister comes to mind, the one who visited him in jair often, and sat crying in the courtroom)...
...Where are these interviews?
...I'll tell you where.
The media doesn't want us to hear ANYTHING good about the man.....anything normal or redeeming.
We're to be good little sheeple and believe the garbage they're spewing, and just shut up!
I BET DW's sister would like to say some nice things about her brother.
Please, if I'm wrong on this......point me in the direction of the interviews his defenders were allowed to make.
It's just like it was on CourtTV.....anytime someone had the guts to question the evidence, they were ususally shut down!!
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