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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 
UNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER

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.



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How sad.....
1 posted on 02/25/2002 7:35:42 AM PST by FresnoDA
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To: FresnoDA
LEGAL EXPERTS DISCUSS VAN DAM CASE

( 02-25-2002 ) - It's been 24 days since Danielle van Dam has turned up missing. And now, a suspect is behind bars, but searchers are no closer to finding the little girl.

Hundreds of volunteers spent the weekend searching around Borrego Springs and Pine Valley. On Friday, the Van Dam's neighbor, David Westerfield, was arrested.

Lab tests found the child's blood on Westerfield's clothing and in his RV. He now faces kidnapping and burglary charges. The self-employed engineer will spend his 50th birthday in jail on Monday.

On Sunday night, a fundraiser was held in Rancho Bernardo. Diners who brought flyers into the Rancho Bernardo Souplantation had 20 percent of their bill donated to search efforts.

Suspect David Westerfield is set to appear in court this week. But local experts say, without a body, there is no evidence that Danielle has been killed. Many fear the 7-year-old will never be found.

“The single most important factor in determining the homicide of a missing body case is the uncharacteristic or the uncanny disappearance,” said Deputy District Attorney Dan Goldstein.

Goldstein was able to convince a jury last August to convict James Dailey of killing his wife Lupe, even though her body was never found.

“We found out he had made threats, that he said he was going to kill Guadalupe and that nobody would ever find her body,” said Goldstein.

Besides a motive, Goldstein said there was other circumstantial evidence that pointed to Dailey's guilt.

“In the James Dailey case, he had a motive. There was an acrimonious divorce going on and he wanted custody of his kids. There were inconsistent statements, and an alibi that failed,” said Goldstein.

“When you see a prosecutor of a case where there’s no body, they have strong circumstantial evidence and they have a motive,” said Defense Attorney Kerry Steigerwalt.

Steigerwalt says a motive is necessary in a murder trial to convince a jury to convict if a body hasn't been found.

And if David Westerfield were to go to trial for the disappearance and murder of Danielle van Dam, Steigerwalt says right now there is no motive.

“What is the motive here? We’ve seen in the press there were all kinds of bags of pornography taken from the home. Is that a motive?” said Steigerwalt. “It sure seems to me we're lacking motive. I mean we can stretch, we can hypothesize, we can believe that it was this cause or that cause. But there's no real motive here.”

Detectives handling this case admit no motive has been established yet. However, new evidence or information may turn up as court proceedings go ahead.

2 posted on 02/25/2002 7:39:39 AM PST by FresnoDA
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To: FresnoDA
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.

Doesn't seem like double jeopardy to me - murder would be a different charge, wouldn't it? Doesn't "double jeopardy" refer only to being charged/tried for the same crime a second time?

3 posted on 02/25/2002 7:47:00 AM PST by LurkedLongEnough
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To: FresnoDA
How sad.....

Yes.

I thought they had to have a body to prosecute for murder? I guess I'm mistaken?

4 posted on 02/25/2002 7:48:21 AM PST by MeekOneGOP
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To: FresnoDA
Incredibly sad.
5 posted on 02/25/2002 7:48:49 AM PST by homeschool mama
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To: Travis McGee;BunnySlippers;Doughtyone;Hillary's Lovely Legs;one_particular_harbour;Mixer;spectre...
Ping...)))
6 posted on 02/25/2002 7:49:50 AM PST by FresnoDA
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To: LurkedLongEnough
Doesn't seem like double jeopardy to me - murder would be a different charge, wouldn't it? Doesn't "double jeopardy" refer only to being charged/tried for the same crime a second time?

I understood for the same crime as well. I think the writer got it wrong.

7 posted on 02/25/2002 7:51:32 AM PST by MeekOneGOP
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To: homeschool mama
ImageMURDER CHARGES MAY BE FILED TODAY
A San Diego law enforcement source has told the Union Tribune that murder charges are likely to be filed against David Westerfield in the kidnapping of 7 year old Danielle van Dam. And the source says the murder charges, which would include special circumstances that qualifies the case for the death penalty, could be filed as early as today. Westerfield was arrested last Friday and charged with kidnapping after police said CSI teams found blood and DNA evidence in Westerfeld's clothing and motor home as well as in Danielle's bedroom. Meantime, search teams say they will continue their search for Danielle each day this week. Danielle was discovered missing from her bedroom on the morning of February 2nd.
8 posted on 02/25/2002 7:54:02 AM PST by FresnoDA
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To: MeeknMing
No, you don't need a body to prosecute someone for murder.

We had a murder in which a man was convicted of murdering his wife even though they never found her body. I can't remember their last names, but I do know there was a TV movie made about it. The murder victim's name was Vonnie and for some reason I cannot for the life of me remember who played her sister in the TV movie....Blonde woman, had breast cancer, married to a cop....

9 posted on 02/25/2002 7:57:11 AM PST by Catspaw
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To: MeeknMing
I watched a show recently on Discovery Channel, and a Doctor/Dentist? killed his wife/girl friend, and took the body off the Virginia coast, dumped in the ocean inside of an ice chest/bait box.  Body was never recovered, but the guy was sentenced for murder anyway.  I am sure there are other cases as well.  Sorry for the lack of details, just giving you the scenario.

Westerfield is definitely getting squeezed BIG TIME now by San Diego LE.

Must we presume that the investigation is over, and that Damon and Brenda VD are "off the hook"?

There are still many gaping questions, at least on the surface, with regards to their actions that evening.  In fact, one might conclude that their actions were either reckless or contributing to the outcome of the little girls safety....

10 posted on 02/25/2002 7:58:14 AM PST by FresnoDA
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To: LurkedLongEnough
Doesn't "double jeopardy" refer only to being charged/tried for the same crime a second time? I think you are correct, but you know lawyers--they could probably tie the case up in appeals and legal mumbo jumbo forever.
11 posted on 02/25/2002 7:59:27 AM PST by scholar
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To: FresnoDA
Maybe Westerfield would like to reveal where the body is, but something is keeping him from doing so. That something could be the condition of the body when he finished with it.
12 posted on 02/25/2002 8:00:59 AM PST by crypt2k
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To: FresnoDA

Danielle: Lost in the Hustle


13 posted on 02/25/2002 8:03:03 AM PST by crypt2k
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To: FresnoDA
There are still many gaping questions,...

I agree, I am still praying that LE is taking a hard look at the van Dams.

14 posted on 02/25/2002 8:04:17 AM PST by scholar
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To: FresnoDA
Could you be 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.

15 posted on 02/25/2002 8:05:36 AM PST by Hillary's Lovely Legs
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To: crypt2k
This was a crime of opportunity. Sadly the parents provided the opportunity.
16 posted on 02/25/2002 8:07:00 AM PST by Hillary's Lovely Legs
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To: Hillary's Lovely Legs
You are correct, thank you for maintaining the FR memory division!! BTTT!
17 posted on 02/25/2002 8:10:08 AM PST by FresnoDA
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To: Hillary's Lovely Legs
Could the blood itself satisfy the need for a "corpus"? I seem to remember a bone fragment has, before.
18 posted on 02/25/2002 8:11:40 AM PST by freedomlover
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To: FresnoDA
And why aren't the police beating the bejeezes out of this guy and getting some info as to where he dumped her body?
19 posted on 02/25/2002 8:11:54 AM PST by village idiot
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To: crypt2k
That something could be the condition of the body when he finished with it.

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.

20 posted on 02/25/2002 8:12:14 AM PST by newzjunkey
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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.

sw

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.


RICK ROBERTS’ SOURCE, HIGH-PLACED LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICIAL’ TOLD RICK

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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To: Amore
I don't think they have specified yet whether it is her hair. A hair with root was found in his shower, and the hair was not his.
That, as far as I know, has been the only official announcement on the hair in the shower.
41 posted on 02/25/2002 9:01:13 AM PST by Mrs.Liberty
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To: freedomlover
Could the blood itself satisfy the need for a "corpus"? I seem to remember a bone fragment has, before.

If they found blood in large enough quantities, that could be enough to convince me that she's dead, at least. I've seen several different cases on the "New Detectives" (Discovery Channel) where blood was found (thanks to good old Luminol) in large enough quantities that experts were convinced that no one could have survived losing that much blood.

If I were a juror, and the evidence shows he was in her bedroom, and there were large quantities of blood found in his camper, it wouldn't take much for me to convict him of murder, without a body. The threshold is "beyond a reasonable doubt". Barring a house fire, a middle-aged neighbor breaking into a 7-year old girl's bedroom is up to no good. No reasonable person would argue with that.

42 posted on 02/25/2002 9:02:54 AM PST by wimpycat
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To: Jaded
Can't seem to get past the total lack of real concern on the part of the parents to the alarm light

I SOO Agree! In fact, when we heard of the disappearance on the late night local news the day she was reported missing,
I turned to my husband and said: What the hell kind of parent isn't going to check on the kids if the DOOR IS OPEN and the ALARM IS BLINKING?

43 posted on 02/25/2002 9:04:54 AM PST by Mrs.Liberty
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To: Tarheel;Hillary's Lovely Legs
But you guys left out the best part. What Mr. Smart Guy Capano didn't figure on was that the ice chest wouldn't sink, it floated, so he tried to rectify that by shooting it full of bullet holes. That didn't work either. Finally, he dumped her body out of the cooler. A fisherman later came along, liked the fancy cooler, figured he could patch the cooler and use it as a back-up. Eventually, he heard the story about the cooler (in the media, who got it from the brother who squealed) and the fisherman was able to come forward and provide the cooler. That made a huge difference, and corroborated the brother's story (since brother had a dicey past, corroboration was very needed.
44 posted on 02/25/2002 9:05:52 AM PST by Amore
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To: Mrs.Liberty
Thanks for the clarification on the hair. BTW, if anyone reads the original threads on this (and your post was probably one of them) that's what everyone was saying: What the heck kind of parent sees the alarm triggered and doesn't go check?! It seemed crazy & negligent then, and it seems crazy & negligent now.
45 posted on 02/25/2002 9:09:52 AM PST by Amore
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To: Amore
Regarding the additional evidence found in the girl's room, we know it is not blood, and it is not hair. That leaves traceable/detectable "other" bodily fluids, presumably semen! Will search for the articles confirming that statement!
46 posted on 02/25/2002 9:10:17 AM PST by FresnoDA
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To: FresnoDA
I am wondering how Westerfield knew where the childs bedroom was. The father was there and awake to the wee hours of the morning. Did he know where her room was because he had engaged in swinging with the parents? Had they engaged in that activity that night together? It does seem like there are some gaping holes. I wonder if he appears so calm because he knows the parents are involved and their involvement was primary, his secondary?
47 posted on 02/25/2002 9:16:59 AM PST by ethical
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To: FresnoDA
I believe you are referring to the case of Thomas Capano, who was a prominent Wilmington, DE attorney. He murdered his former girlfriend, Anne-Marie Fahey, and dumped her body (in a coller) off the Delaware coast into the Atlantic ocean. The body was never recovered (although the cooler eventually was found by fisherman), but he was nonetheless convicted of 1st degree murder and sentenced to death.

I believe he was convicted on the testimony of his own brother, who was on the boat and said that after the cooler floated, Capano shot it full of wholes to get it to sink, but it fell open and the brother saw a human foot going down into the water.

In an even stranger twist, they were able to match blood from Capano's house to Fahey's blood because she had donated blood a few days before her murder--they had to literally stop a ship heading to Europe with the plasma on board.

48 posted on 02/25/2002 9:17:11 AM PST by apollo11
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To: tippytoes
Westerfield is a brilliant inventor with several patents in the Medical technology field.

I came across what the patents were for, but can't find the information again. His patent inventions improve the quality of certain people's lives...sort of like a prosthetic.

He probably has more money than the high-rolling Van Dams ever thought they could have.

Westerfield is a self-employed Engineer who worked out of his home. He seemed to enjoy financial independence due to his inventions.

sw

49 posted on 02/25/2002 9:17:57 AM PST by spectre
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To: FresnoDA
Just found out how close this hit to home. Turns out that this is just down the block from where my aunt and uncle used to live, and that Westerfield was a patient of my cousin out there.
50 posted on 02/25/2002 9:20:51 AM PST by Tennessee_Bob
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