Skip to comments.Van Dam Case Witness Challenges Findings Of Defense 'Bug Expert': But...His Testimony Don't Add Up..
Posted on 07/30/2002 3:58:51 PM PDT by FresnoDA
July 30, 2002
M. Lee Goff, an entomologist and chairman of the Forensic Sciences Department of Chaminade University in Honolulu, said his review of the crime scene photos, morgue photos, weather reports and other evidence suggest that Danielle's body was exposed to insects as early as Feb. 1 and no later than Feb. 14.
"We're working on an estimate. We're not running a stopwatch here," Goff said.
The defense has contended that there was no way Westerfield could have placed the victim's body where it was found in the East County community of Dehesa, because he was under close surveillance by police beginning Feb. 5.
Goff was called to the stand to rebut testimony from two forensic entomologists called by the defense who testified that Danielle's body could not have been exposed to insects any earlier than mid-February, nearly two weeks after Westerfield came under police surveillance.
Westerfield could face the death penalty if convicted of the kidnap and murder of Danielle. He also has been charged with possession of child pornography.
Danielle was reported missing from her family's Sabre Springs home on Feb. 2. Her body was found in a wooded area near El Cajon on Feb. 27 after a massive search drew national attention.
Westerfield, who lived two doors down from the van Dams, became an early suspect in her disappearance.
Insect evidenceWhen Danielle's naked body was found, investigators took extensive photos of it and its surroundings, then put bags over her head, feet and hands and wrapped the body in a sheet to preserve any evidence.
Law enforcement officials called in forensic entomologist David Faulker to study the signs of insect infestation on the body to try to gauge when Danielle had died.
But lead defense attorney Steven Feldman argued in his opening statement that scientific evidence would prove his client could not have killed Danielle. As it turned out, the prosecution never called Faulker to the stand and he was called by Feldman as a defense witness.
Early in the trial, San Diego County Medical Examiner Brian Blackbourne testified that the girl could have been dead from 10 days to six weeks when her body was found.
Faulkner testified July 10 that his analysis of the life cycles of the insects found on Danielle's body showed it wasn't available to insects until sometime between Feb. 16 and 18.
On July 22, a second defense expert, Dr. Neal Haskell, testified that Danielle's body couldn't have been exposed to flies any earlier than Feb. 12.
Insect rebuttalProsecutors began rebutting the defense insect evidence on Thursday by calling Dr. William C. Rodriguez III, a forensic anthropologist for the Department of Defense, who testified that Danielle's body was in "an advanced state of mummification" that would have delayed insect infestation.
On Tuesday, Goff reiterated testimony about insect lifecycles presented by the previous experts: You can calculate how long a body has been exposed to the elements by gauging the age of the maggots fly larvae growing on the body.
Flies are quickly drawn to dead bodies and will lay batches of eggs on them. The development of the eggs into different stages of larvae and adult flies is then affected by temperature, humidity and other environmental factors.
Using charts of known development rates, a forensic entomologist can look at the age of maggots found on a body and, factoring in the weather, can calculate when the eggs they hatched from had been laid. Generally, the warmer the weather, the faster the insects develop.
Goff, author of "A Fly for the Prosecution: How Insects Help Solve Crimes," said he calculated the "post-mortem interval" date from the maggots on Danielle's body using temperature records and charts from a 2000 fly study.
He said Faulkner appeared to have made his calculations using a chart of insect development from a study that used 80-degree temperatures, far higher than the rates in the San Diego mountains in February.
Haskell appeared to have calculated his dates assuming that the activity of the "maggot mass" on the body would have raised the temperature of the mass, speeding up their development.
In both cases, Goff said, the other entomologists estimated that the maggots would have developed much faster than he did, giving a much later date for the exposure of Danielle's body to the elements.
Goff was scheduled to resume testifying and to face cross-examination by the defense after a lunch break.
A series of shirts and other orange-colored items brought to the San Diego Police Department crime lab were made from either nylon, cotton or a polyester-cotton blend, criminalist Tanya DuLaney testified.
"Did the fabric of any of these items consist of acrylic in any manner?" assistant prosecutor Woody Clarke asked.
"No," DuLaney replied.
Prosecutors called DuLaney back to the stand in response to defense suggestions that investigators could have inadvertently cross-contaminated the two crime scenes with the orange acrylic fibers, which became a key piece of prosecutor evidence linking Westerfield with Danielle's body.
On June 25, police criminalist Jennifer Shen testified that an orange acrylic fiber tangled in Danielle's plastic necklace at the time her body was found was similar to orange acrylic fibers found in laundry inside Westerfield's home and on bedding in his bedroom.
On July 24, lead defense attorney Steven Feldman introduced into evidence several still images from television that showed police investigators wearing orange or orangish shirts as they entered and left Westerfield's house on Feb. 4 or 5.
In response, the district attorney's office identified all of the police and search-and-rescue personnel shown in the photos, collected anything orange-colored they were wearing at the time and gave the clothing to the crime lab.
That evidence consister of two orange long-sleeved shirts, an orange short-sleeved shirt, four reddish polo shirts, an orange rope, an orange strap, a black-and-red backpack, an orange hat and an orange dog vest, DuLaney said.
Under microscopic and infrared examination, none of the fibers taken from those items contained any acrylic material, DuLaney said.
Trial's end in sightAt the start of today's session, Superior Court Judge William Mudd told jurors that there will be no testimony on Wednesday, but that testimony will resume Thursday and could conclude on Monday.
"It appears to me that next week you'll hear closing arguments and be in deliberations," Mudd said.
The judge said that he had not yet decided whether to sequester the jurors during deliberations.
Mudd also warned jurors not to read or view any material about the Westerfield case or the Orange County kidnap-murder of Samantha Runnion, in which the girl's mother blamed a previous jury for failing to convict her daughter's accused murdered in a previous sexual abuse case.
"The fact is the case is not similar in any way, shape or form," Mudd said.
Don't ya know Danielle had an orange and blue fabric covered step ladder that she carried whenever she left her yard unattended. Her favorite play time activities are wash the hair in a strangers sink.
I don't think anyone can actually claim they know the actual scene of the crime. Maybe he transported her in teh MH, but I'm not convinced the crime was done there.
Further, if Westerfield got the fibers from Dad's how did he get them to the RV when he showered Sat AM and changed his clothes ? The connections are just not there.
And today we seen that the defense tested dozens of random sources and none matched clothing, so it isn't a common fiber
He didn;t take her to house, he took her to RV. The fibers in house would be transfered by WEsterfield and washer/dryer.
Were all up here, waiting for you to catch up. Last one in has cooties!
Prosecution, not defense tested and proved what the source was not.
Defense tried to imply and deceive the jury.
You are correct that the testimony is that it is not a common fiber.
Same question. Why only 1 orange fiber that appears to have been there for a while, like it was stuck in her hair for a couple of days ( like from the last time she was at DW's and ran all over the house).?
She would have bathed and washed her hair in the interim.
The orange fiber was tangled within a tangle of her hair on the necklace.
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