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Murder Charge Likely In Missing-Girl Investigation (Danielle van Dam)
Union Tribune ^ | February 25, 2002 | J. Harry Jones

Posted on 02/25/2002 7:35:42 AM PST by FresnoDA

Murder charge likely in missing-girl investigation

Authorities believe 7-year-old Danielle is dead, source says

By J. Harry Jones 

February 25, 2002

It is increasingly likely that a murder charge will be sought against David Westerfield – possibly as early as today – for the death of 7-year-old Danielle van Dam, even though her body has not been found.

A law enforcement source close to the investigation told The San Diego Union-Tribune that "investigators and prosecutors are of the belief she is dead."

The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the murder charge would include special allegations that could lead to the death penalty if Westerfield is convicted.

San Diego police Chief David Bejarano would not comment specifically on the source's claim, but said a decision on whether to bring a murder charge would be made today.

"We have been working with the investigators, the District Attorney's Office and the family throughout the weekend," Bejarano said. "Even if we do file the charges, there is always still the hope that she will be found."

Westerfield, who turns 50 today, is being held in isolation in the downtown jail without bail on charges of kidnapping and burglary in connection with the disappearance of Danielle from her Sabre Springs home. Danielle last was seen Feb. 1, when her father put her to bed, police say.

Westerfield, who lives two houses from the van Dams, is scheduled to be arraigned tomorrow.

He was arrested Friday, following a three-week investigation. Authorities said DNA tests found Danielle's blood in Westerfield's motor home and on a piece of his clothing. Additional evidence was discovered on a piece of the girl's clothing in her bedroom.

One reason for bringing the murder charge now is to avoid a possible legal entanglement, a source said. Theoretically, if Westerfield were to plead guilty immediately to the kidnapping and burglary charges, his attorney might be able to argue double jeopardy if a murder charge were brought later.

The decision to charge Westerfield with murder was discussed over the weekend with Danielle's parents, Brenda and Damon van Dam, the source said.

A spokeswoman for the van Dams last night said the couple would not comment on the case until after Westerfield's arraignment.

Westerfield became the main suspect within days of the girl's disappearance when he consented to, and failed, a polygraph test, several sources have said.

His Mountain Pass Road home had been under constant surveillance by detectives and members of the media covering what has become a national story. He was arrested at his attorney's office Friday.

Bejarano said during a news conference Friday that police "believe without question that DNA evidence links Mr. Westerfield to Danielle's disappearance."

Tests on additional pieces of biological evidence are pending.

Police started looking at Westerfield because he was the only neighbor away from home the weekend Danielle disappeared. He told police he socialized with Brenda van Dam and two of her friends the evening of Feb. 1 at a Poway bar.

He said he went home alone, then drove his motor home to the desert, where he spent the weekend by himself.

Authorities and hundreds of volunteers have searched eastern San Diego County methodically, hoping to find some trace of the girl.

Yesterday, 200 volunteers hiked through the Kitchen Creek area of the Cleveland National Forest, which is dissected by Interstate 8 – the freeway Westerfield likely would have driven to the desert.

Prosecuting a murder case without a body is difficult, but not impossible. Last year, a former Santee man was convicted of killing his estranged wife, Guadalupe Dailey, even though her body never has been found.

TOPICS: Breaking News; Crime/Corruption; News/Current Events
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To: Hillary's Lovely Legs
This was a crime of opportunity. Sadly the parents provided the opportunity.

There needs to be accountability there. They have two other young children.

21 posted on 02/25/2002 8:13:23 AM PST by newzjunkey
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To: newzjunkey
I agree, but that won't happen because the parents are white middle class and what they were doing, while morally repugnant
to most of us, is not illegal. If mom and dad had been lower-class, black or hispanic..
those kids would have been pulled out of the house long ago.
22 posted on 02/25/2002 8:18:50 AM PST by Mrs.Liberty
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To: newzjunkey
RUMOR has been for weeks now that he's been negotiating to get death off the table (not that it matters as here in CA seemingly no one really dies) in exchange for the location of the body.

Did Westerfield have the forethought to conveniently hide the body somewhere for future use as a bargaining chip? I would rather think he would attempt to destroy the remains, if possible. Where between the Pacific Ocean and the Arizona border can one rent a wood chipper?

23 posted on 02/25/2002 8:20:01 AM PST by crypt2k
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To: freedomlover
I don't know if just the blood can be the corpus, I am not familiar with California's murder laws. If they are going to charge him with a homocide, they should have more evidence than the blood drop.
24 posted on 02/25/2002 8:22:07 AM PST by Hillary's Lovely Legs
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To: FresnoDA
Anyone can say the alarm was flashing red because the door was open. If it wasn't punched in to the security alert monitoring service, then there is really no way of proving the VD's claim.

BTW, we have many neighbors who live quiet lives and don't socialize with other neighbors. Am I supposed to think they are "weird"? I'm not saying Westerfield is not guilty, I'm saying there is more to this than an open and shut case.

I'd like to know why Gary Condit is still walking free? There IS evidence to link him to a "motive" in Chandra Levy's disappearance and the subsequent covering up of his association with her, i.e., dumping the watch box. Condit WAS acting "weird". Condit should be behind bars too.

The Levy's must be silently groaning in disbelief.


25 posted on 02/25/2002 8:24:12 AM PST by spectre
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To: Hillary's Lovely Legs
They do have more than a blood drop. They have blood at more than one location, plus they have whatever they found in the girl's bedroom. Remember, "corpus delecti" does not refer to the body itself. It refers to the body of the crime.
26 posted on 02/25/2002 8:24:41 AM PST by Amore
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To: Mrs.Liberty

If the VD's were clean and pure on this matter, then isn't it probable that their High Priced Pro Bono attorney's would have filed a slander/libel suit against Rick Roberts?  This Flash Bulletin has been posted on the KFMB website for over two weeks.  The VD's have made no attempt to dispute these revelations.  In light of the contradiction of Brenda VD's story and that of Westerfield, there continue to be many questions which move this from an atypical child kidnapping case, to that of a bizarre case of promiscuity and deviant behavior by the biological parents.


The comments of Rick Roberts source (a high placed law enforcement official) are in bold type. Additional information from other sources (press, etc.) are in italics.

David Westerfield has been quoted in the press as saying that he was a friend of the van Dams.

The van Dams have denied this, stating that their only contact with him was when Brenda and Danielle came to his home to sell girl scout cookies, and when they exchanged greeting as they passed by.

The bar has been identified in the press as "Dad’s Café and Steak House."

David Westerfield openly admitted that he was at the bar that night. He claims that he danced with Brenda van Dam. Brenda denies this.

27 posted on 02/25/2002 8:28:23 AM PST by FresnoDA
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To: spectre
Bump, Con-did-it!
28 posted on 02/25/2002 8:29:34 AM PST by FresnoDA
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To: village idiot
There's currently an exhibit of "Torture Instruments Through the Ages" going on in Balboa Park, here in San Diego. MAJORLY gruesome stuff!!! I suggest they try a few out on Westerfield til he tells us where Danielle is.
29 posted on 02/25/2002 8:32:46 AM PST by joey'smom
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To: Hillary's Lovely Legs
...referring to Thomas Capono, the attorney in Delaware who murdered his girlfriend and he and his brother dumped the body in the Atlantic in an ice chest?

You are correct, no body but he was convicted of her murder...

Wasn't Capano AG of the state of Delaware? Also, there was a brother and a cousin who was involved with the dumping of the ice chest, one of them turned state's evidence.

The Tarheel

30 posted on 02/25/2002 8:33:17 AM PST by Tarheel
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To: Amore
I'd like to know if this guy had money problems. Maybe he sold that little girl to get his butt out of debt. Just a thought.
31 posted on 02/25/2002 8:44:55 AM PST by tippytoes
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To: Tarheel
Yes, he was the AG. He was married with two mistresses. One mistress testified against him. He killed his mistress Anne Marie Fahey at his home, and tried to blame the murder on his other mistress.

Ann Marie was noticed missing when she didn't show up for dinner with her fiance. ( are you following all this?)

The Capano's have a huge construction company and Thomas was able to dump the bloody couch and carpeting in the construction dumpsters. His brother, whose name I can't recall right now, used his fishing boat to take Thomas with Fahey in the cooler, to dump it in the ocean. When the cooler wouldn't sink, Capano shot it full of bullet holes.

Thomas Capano had a December 17th, 2001 execution date, but he is still with us today.

32 posted on 02/25/2002 8:45:39 AM PST by Hillary's Lovely Legs
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To: Tarheel
He is also guilty of having bad hair.

33 posted on 02/25/2002 8:46:41 AM PST by Hillary's Lovely Legs
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To: Hillary's Lovely Legs
He should be executed for the hair-do alone.
34 posted on 02/25/2002 8:50:41 AM PST by Mrs.Liberty
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To: FresnoDA
Authorities said DNA tests found Danielle's blood in Westerfield's motor home and on a piece of his clothing. Additional evidence was discovered on a piece of the girl's clothing in her bedroom.

Any clue as to what the additional evidence is?

35 posted on 02/25/2002 8:51:00 AM PST by 2Jedismom
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To: MeeknMing, LurkedLongEnough
The technicality described sounds like the defense could pressure the prosecution into filing a lesser charge if they pleaded guilty to, say, third degree murder or manslaughter. Then, if first degree murder were later proven, double jeopordy would kick in to prevent upping the charge. The prosecution is wearing a belt and suspenders on this one to avoid a Jon Benet Ramsey scenario.
36 posted on 02/25/2002 8:51:24 AM PST by Harrison Bergeron
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To: FresnoDA
I hope you're wrong, but it's looking like no more investigation into the VDs ahead--sadly. One can't help but wonder if someone on city council or something might be part of the VD swing group. (No, that term VD swing group was not totally an accidental term.)
37 posted on 02/25/2002 8:53:02 AM PST by MizSterious
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To: FresnoDA
I say start shooting off body parts until he tells where the body is.
38 posted on 02/25/2002 8:53:42 AM PST by Blood of Tyrants
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To: FresnoDA
There was always the state official in NJ, then the pilot who used the woodchipper... there's a whole list.

This one is just way too weird. Can't seem to get past the total lack of real concern on the part of the parents to the alarm light or the changing stories of so many of the people involved. Doesn't pass the smell test. I don't think we'll hear all of the truth.

39 posted on 02/25/2002 8:57:36 AM PST by Jaded
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To: 2Jedismom; FresnoDA
I don't know what the additional evidence in her bedroom was, but I thought one report said one of her hairs (with the root attached) was found in the drain of his shower. Isn't that correct, DA?
40 posted on 02/25/2002 8:58:08 AM PST by Amore
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