On this date, 2 February 2002, a seven year old girl, Danielle Van Dam was murdered by David Alan Westerfield in California. I will post information from Wikipedia and other news source. Last year, I thanked God that Proposition 34 was defeated; I still want that child killer, Westerfield to pay with his life. Hopefully, he will pay with his life in the future with child killers like Al Rashidi, Mamoru Takuma, Westley Allan Dodd, John Albert Taylor and Martin Link.
David Alan Westerfield
February 25, 1952 (age 60)
incarcerated at San Quentin State Prison
David Alan Westerfield (born February 25, 1952), of San Diego, California was convicted and sentenced to death for the kidnapping and murder of seven-year-old Danielle Van Dam in 2002. He was a successful, self-employed engineer who owned a luxury motor home and lived two houses away from Van Dam. A divorced father of two college students, he is currently incarcerated at San Quentin State Prison.
On the Friday evening of February 1, 2002, Danielle's mother Brenda Van Dam and a couple of friends went out to a bar. Her husband Damon Van Dam stayed behind to look after their daughter Danielle and her two brothers. Damon put Danielle to bed around 10:30 p.m., and she fell asleep. Damon also slept until his wife returned around 2:00 a.m. with four of her friends. Damon did not turn on the home's alarm system. The six chatted for approximately a half hour, and then Brenda's friends went home. Damon and Brenda went to sleep thinking that their daughter was safely sleeping in her room. The next morning, Danielle was missing. The couple frantically searched their home, but could not find her. They called the police at 9:39 a.m.
Law enforcement officials interviewed neighbors and soon discovered that Westerfield and another neighbor were not home that Saturday morning. Westerfield returned home at approximately 8 a.m. Monday morning. From that point on, he became the prime suspect. Westerfield stated that he did not know Danielle's location, but that he was at the same bar that Brenda had attended with her girlfriends on Friday night. Brenda was able to confirm this, but denied Westerfield's claim that they had danced together - however, two eyewitnesses testified to seeing them dance together and that Brenda was intoxicated. At the preliminary hearing in March, Brenda alternated between saying she didn’t dance with him, and didn’t remember doing so.
On his way home on Monday morning, a sleepy-looking and bare-footed David Westerfield stopped at his regular dry cleaners and dropped off two comforters, two pillow covers, and a jacket that would later yield Danielle Van Dam's blood. When law enforcement first interviewed Westerfield, he did not mention going to the dry cleaners. Westerfield stated that he had driven around the desert and the beach, and stayed at a campground. Law enforcement put Westerfield on 24-hour surveillance on February 4, noting that he had given his RV a cleaning when he returned from his trip. The RV, his SUV, and other property was impounded for testing on February 5.
About three days before Danielle Van Dam's disappearance, Danielle and Brenda sold Girl Scout cookies to Westerfield who invited them into his home and chatted with Brenda.
On February 22, police arrested Westerfield for Danielle's kidnapping after two small stains of her blood were found on his clothing and in his motor home. Danielle's severely decomposed body was found February 27. Westerfield did not have a criminal record. His attorneys suggested that the police were in a rush to solve the case, and declined to consider other suspects.
Westerfield pleaded not guilty, and went on trial on June 4, 2002. During the trial, Westerfield's lawyers, Steven Feldman and Robert Boyce, suggested that child pornography found on Westerfield's computer was downloaded by Westerfield's son, Neal, who was 18 at the time of the murder. Neal denied this. Part of Westerfield's defense focused on the lifestyle of Danielle Van Dam's parents. The defense suggested that the couple were known to have an open marriage, were "swingers," and smoked marijuana in their garage regularly. Westerfield's defense claimed that this lifestyle might have brought the kidnapper to their home. It was thought that the Van Dam's did not lock their side garage door, to air out marijuana smoke, and this is how the kidnapper entered the home while Damon slept. Westerfield's lawyers also charged that he was unfairly interrogated for more than nine hours by detectives who ignored his repeated requests to call a lawyer, take a shower, eat, and sleep.
The trial lasted two months and concluded on August 8. On August 21, the jury found him guilty of kidnapping and first degree murder. He also received an additional misdemeanor charge for possessing sexual images of subjects under the age of 18 on his computer. Outrage ensued after the trial when evidence of prior plea talks (see below) surfaced in the media. Many people were concerned that Westerfield's attorneys misled the jury by fabricating the "unknown kidnapper scenario" when they clearly knew their client was involved in the crime because he knew the location of the body.
The science of entomology was a major focus during the trial. Three entomologists were consulted by the defense, and all testified that flies first laid eggs on Van Dam's body sometime in mid-February, long after Westerfield was under police surveillance. However, cross-examination by the prosecution demonstrated a lack of consensus among the entomologists on several fronts. Entomologist David Faulkner conceded that his time estimate was based mostly on the fly larvae (but the absence of beetle grubs further supported his conclusion about the post-mortem interval), and that his research could not determine the maximum amount of time Danielle's body was outside and subject to decomposition. Entomologist Neal Haskell used a weather chart prepared by forensic artist James Gripp, stating that the warm temperatures made it likely that insects immediately colonized Danielle's corpse. The third entomologist, Dr. Robert Hall, estimated that initial insect infestation occurred between February 12 and February 23, but acknowledged that the insect infestation of the corpse wasn't "typical" because so few maggots were found in the skull. The prosecution brought in a fourth entomologist, Dr. Madison Lee Goff, who testified that the infestation may have occurred between February 9 and February 14, but stressed that other factors may have delayed insect arrival. He explained that a covering such as a blanket might have initially kept flies at bay; however no covering was found, and Goff contended that the longest delay by such a shroud would be two and a half days.
Some of the computers and loose computer media in Westerfield's office contained pornography, although his attorneys argued that the police originally reported not finding child pornography. According to the prosecution computer expert, James Watkins, 100,000 images were found, including 8,000 to 10,000 nude images and 80 that could be considered child pornography. The materials included brief movie clips that featured an underage girl being raped by one man while another man restrained her. These clips, including the sound of the girl struggling, were played in the courtroom. In all, two sets of movie clips, six animated cartoons, and 13 still images taken from computers, zip disks, or CD-Roms in David Westerfield's home were shown, each featuring underage girls.
In 2003, after Westerfield's conviction, James Selby wrote to the police confessing to the Van Dam murder. Selby was wanted for kidnapping a 9-year-old Oklahoma girl from her bedroom in the middle of the night and raping her in 1999, for raping women in San Diego and sexually assaulting a 12-year-old girl in Sparks, Nevada in 2001; however police did not believe that he murdered Danielle. Prosecutor Jeff Dusek also read Selby's confession, and deemed it not credible. Selby - a divorced father of three - worked as a handyman and machinist and traveled often between San Diego and Tucson. It is believed that he was in the Tucson, Arizona area when Danielle was kidnapped in February 2002. Selby is believed to be responsible for a series of rapes in Arizona from October 2001 to May 2002. He had a prior rape conviction in Colorado. In addition, Selby claimed responsibility for the slaying of JonBenét Ramsey. According to Deputy County Attorney Bradley Roach, "It was an aspect of his personality to confess to something to see what other people would say." Selby committed suicide in his jail cell on November 22, 2004.
In January 2003, a California judge sentenced David Westerfield to be executed. He was transported to San Quentin State Prison. He is currently enrolled in the Handicraft program at San Quentin State Prison. The Van Dams sued Westerfield, but the case was settled out of court. The Van Dams were awarded $416,000 from several insurance companies who insured Westerfield's home, SUV, and motor home. The settlement also prevented Westerfield from ever profiting from his crime.
When the trial was over, the media, quoting unnamed police sources, reported that Westerfield's lawyers were just minutes away from negotiating a plea bargain when a private citizen's group, started by the Laura Recovery Center and concerned local citizens, found Danielle's body. According to these reports, under the deal, Westerfield would have taken police to the site where she was located in exchange for life without parole. Both the prosecution and the defense declined to comment on these reports.
During the penalty phase of the trial, Westerfield's 19-year-old niece testified that, when she was 7-years-old, her uncle entered his daughter's bedroom, where the niece was spending the night with her parents while attending a party, to check on the kids, and woke up finding him rubbing her teeth, and said she bit his finger as hard as she could. She went downstairs to tell her mother. Westerfield was questioned about the incident at the time by his sister-in-law, where he explained that he was trying to comfort her. The incident was then forgotten.
In the months following the end of the trial audio tapes of Westerfield being interviewed were released to the media. In one police interview he tells investigators that he doesn't feel emotionally stable. He is told that he failed a polygraph test. Westerfield tells him that he wants a retest and that he was not involved in Danielle's disappearance.
In the interrogation video tape made at the time of his first interview (02-05-2002), near the end of the interview Westerfield, who is given a momentary pause in the interview while one of the two officers leaves the room, puts his head down on the table. At 18:51:40 (timecode on the video tape) the remaining officer asks him, "Want to be left alone?" to which Westerfield replies, "No, it's okay." He then lifts his head and looks directly at the officer, pats the table beside him with his left hand and says, "If you wanted to leave your gun here for a few minutes, I'd appreciate it" in a seemingly sincere request to commit suicide if only given the opportunity. When the officer decries the choice as "silly", Westerfield makes a brief comment and then lays his head back down on the table.
An animal forensic show from US TV network Animal Planet, is based on the belief that hairs consistent with Danielle’s dog, a Weimaraner, which were found in Westerfield’s laundry, and in his RV, and on his comforter at the dry-cleaners, first got onto her pajamas when she cuddled with the dog, and then were carried on the pajamas to his house and RV. The show states that the evidence presented by the dog had a monumental impact, and the dog was critical in identifying the person who abducted and killed Danielle.
The following years after the murder have led to higher states of awareness in San Diego's neighborhoods as well as the institution of funds and benefits made in her honor. The local elementary school that Danielle attended set up a portion of the park/open public area to be dedicated to the child. Her family still lives in Southern California and are active speakers for stricter guidelines for sexual predators and early warning signs.
Judge sentences van Dam killer to death
Showing no emotion and turning aside a plea for an apology, David Westerfield was sentenced to death Friday for the slaying of 7-year-old Danielle van Dam.
The twice-divorced father of two who was convicted last year of kidnapping and murdering his 7-year-old neighbor declined to make a statement as Superior Court Judge William Mudd made the ruling.
Westerfield was unable to make eye contact with Brenda van Dam, Danielle's mother, who called him an evil "monster" who deserved execution.
"Our precious Danielle was taken by a monster thinking only of self-gratification," Brenda van Dam said.
She looked directly at Westerfield, who did not look back. He remained still.
"You sat by smugly as thousands of people frantically searched for Danielle and her family," Brenda van Dam said. "It disgusts me that your sick fantasies and your pitiful needs made you feel you needed her more than her family ...
"You do not deserve any leniency, any mercy, because you refused to give it to Danielle."
Danielle was taken from her family's home in suburban San Diego last February. Nearly a month later, her nude body was found along a remote Southern California highway 25 miles away. Prosecutors said the girl had been assaulted.
Westerfield, a 50-year-old engineer and a neighbor of the van Dam family, was convicted by a six-man, six-woman jury last August.
The evidence presented in the trial included what prosecutors said was Danielle's blood on his jacket and her fingerprints and DNA in his house and mobile home.
The jury recommended a death sentence, but Westerfield's attorneys asked for life in prison instead. Defense attorney Steven Feldman argued Friday that two officers violated Westerfield's constitutional rights in the course of the investigation.
Prosecutors said some evidence against Westerfield was not presented in the trial because of the improper behavior of the two officers.
Speaking from the bench, Mudd said, "The defendant suffered absolutely no, zero, zip, nada prejudice in this trial as a result of the conduct of these officers,"
Feldman also complained that the media "turns capital murder trials into summer entertainment," and he argued that public pressure must not influence the judge's decision.
"I ask you, don't be swayed by the lynch mob mentality we've seen in our community," he said. Feldman also claimed there were mitigating factors in Westerfield's background, which the prosecution denied.
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When Mudd asked Westerfield if he'd like to make a statement, he replied, "No sir, thank you."
The judge rejected the defense's motion minutes before sentencing Westerfield.
"Based on a careful and an independent reweighing of the evidence, the court finds that the weight of the evidence ... supports the jury's verdict of death," he said.
Westerfield, who was divorced from his wife in 1996, has two grown children. They had asked the jury to spare their father's life.
Brenda van Dam spoke of them as she directed her words at Westerfield. "You have a daughter of your own," she said. "You will miss all of the good times in her life. You have victimized your own children just because you wanted mine. Although your children may try to move and change their names, they will always live with the fact that their father is a cold-blooded killer."
"What were you thinking as you killed her?" she asked. "Did she not touch your heart one bit? If not, you are a heartless, empty shell."
Damon van Dam, Danielle's father, also cried as he described his anguish. "All I'll have are the memories of her, some old pictures and videos and dreams of her which I hope are always as vivid as they are now. And having to know how brutal the last hours of her life were, my heart and my wife's heart have been broken and my other two children have been deeply hurt."
Friday's sentencing of Westerfield ended one chapter of what was the first of many high-profile cases of missing children found dead in the United States last year.
But Westerfield's sentence does not close the case entirely: under California law, the death sentence will automatically be appealed.
Regardless of the outcome of an appeal, it is most likely that Westerfield will spend the rest of his life behind prison. California's Department of Corrections lists 612 inmates currently on that state's death row.
Additionally, Westerfield's appeal is expected to take years. In the meantime, he will be housed in San Quentin prison.
Outside the courtroom after the trial, Brenda van Dam spoke repeatedly of the treatment she hopes Westerfield will receive from other inmates.
"I hope that he suffers twice, three times, 10 times the pain and fear that he put my daughter through before he dies."
She later said she does not mean for inmates to do anything illegal, but just to make their opinions clear.
The van Dam parents Thursday filed a civil suit against Westerfield, which they said is aimed at sending a message of deterrence by making sure he does not profit from his case.