The Westerfield Trial

Danielle van Dam's Kidnapping and Killing



February 2, 2002 -- Saturday
DANIELLE NICOLE VAN DAM is discovered missing around 9 a.m. by family members. The SDPD declares the child a "missing person." Also missing from the neighborhood -- DAVID WESTERFIELD.

Feb. 7, Thursday
Search warrant issued for WESTERFIELD'S clothing at local cleaners. WESTERFIELD hires Steve Feldman.

Feb. 22, Friday
WESTERFIELD is arrested.

Feb. 27, Wednesday
SDPD is notified that DANIELLE'S corpse has been found by volunteer searchers minutes before they were to enter a plea deal with WESTERFIELD.

March 28
WESTERFIELD denies all charges and pleads "Not Guilty." Feldman files no change of venue or "time waiver", forcing an immediate trial.

May 17
Jury selection begins.

June 4
WESTERFIELD Trial opening statements.

August 21, 2002
WESTERFIELD found Guilty on all 3 counts: First degree Murder, Kidnapping, and possession of child pornography.

August 28, 2002
Penalty phase begins.

September 16, 2002
Jury recommends a sentence of death.

January 3, 2003,
DAVID WESTERFIELD formally sentenced to death by Judge William Mudd.

"...uh… uh -- What is it? It's not really Borrego Springs. It's like the high area of Borrego Springs, I didn't go into Borrego Springs, I went up into the high area up there and just camped. – um, pulled -- I didn't camp -- I just pulled in and… It was getting cold and -- I had already wasted two days -- driving around, so I decided, well I'll come back.
I stopped and ate… stuff like that, you know, and took a shower. I was pretty wasted, you know, working… uh... almost had a heart attack, I think. … Sat around for -- a little bit, but then decided to go – go ahead and take off. This is the little place that we were, we were at  -- was just a little small turn-off type place... so… "


DANIELLE VAN DAM loved coloring, playing with dolls and writing and drawing in her journal.

"She's a very sweet, normal 7-year-old who didn't deserve this and had her whole life ahead of her," said Kim Dato, whose daughter Savanna was in Danielle's class at Creekside Elementary.

"I feel so sorry about the girl if she's not alive," said Cecilia Bao, a neighbor and composer who wrote a song for Danielle titled "The Missing Little One."

Danielle had recently taken up piano, and she was a Brownie who sold Girl Scout cookies to the man now accused of killing her.

Danielle was born in Texas but lived most of her life in California. She spent the past few years in a comfortable two-story home in Sabre Springs, just up the hill from Creekside Elementary School, where she was in a combined first-and second-grade class.

She lived with her parents, two brothers – Derrick, 9, and Dylan, 5 – and their Weimaraner, Layla. Her mother, Brenda, stays at home to take care of her children, and her father, Damon, works as an engineer for Qualcomm.

Her parents reported her missing Feb. 2 after her mother went to wake her and she wasn't in her canopy bed.

Her friends' parents described her as strong-headed but obedient. She loved to go to sleepovers with her friends, and parents didn't mind inviting her over, said Paula Call, whose daughter Sara was a friend of Danielle's.

"It's a joy to have her come to your home," Call said in an interview soon after Danielle disappeared. "She's really a well-rounded little girl."

Annette Peer said that a stain on a jacket that WESTERFIELD left at a dry cleaner and another stain found on the carpet of his motor home matched DNA samples collected from DANIELLE VAN DAM.

Peer said the probability that the stain on the carpet came from someone other than DANIELLE VAN DAM was one in 130 quadrillion (130 followed by 15 zeros).  She also testified that the chance of a mismatch in the case of the jacket stain was even less likely.


"I told Mark that I was going back down to the Strand.
Why I said that I don't know
-- but I did, I said I was going back down to the Strand --
because I had already made up my mind to go someplace else."


Prosecutor JEFF DUSEK:

"Fantasies breed need. If you can tell me why a normal 50 year old man would collect this stuff, I can tell you how a 50 year old man could kidnap and rape a small child -- excuse me -- kidnap and kill a small child."

"She is Speaking to us She is speaking to us… to us all."

"She struggled, as we can see -- she fought, as we can see. She left her fingerprints -- she left her hair. This was not an easy time -- this was not fast… but it worked."

" Inside the trash was a lintball. Thank goodness somebody took the time to go through lintballs in the trash can.

"He is guilty. Guilty to the core."

When Detective Keene caught up with Westerfield on Feb. 4, his rambling explanation of his weekend adventures -- a recreational vehicle odyssey from Silver Strand State Beach to the desert and back to Silver Strand -- grabbed the detective's attention, according to the Union-Tribune.

During a drive in the desert to show detectives where he camped the weekend DANIELLE VAN DAM disappeared, DAVID WESTERFIELD commented that the area would be a "great place to dump a body." Later that day, when a detective said it would be nice to know where the 7-year-old's body was located, WESTERFIELD told him to just be patient and police "will get the information they need." When asked when that would be, WESTERFIELD said it would be "sooner than they think."

Then Westerfield mentioned chatting with Brenda van Dam at Dad's, and told Keene, out of the blue, "I could have sworn she said she had a baby sitter. I didn't know her husband was home."

The indictment of the victim's family, based on silly speculation about their private sex life, has gone on ever since STEVEN FELDMAN first spread the rumors, less than a week after DANIELLE VAN DAM went missing.

When parents suffer the loss of a small child, and then people further victimize them by spreading lies, rumors and innuendo about their personal lives -- one cannot then be surprised that those very same people will refuse to believe the GUILTY VERDICT, and will continue to sling mud and propose ridiculous and paranoid theories about the victims, the prosecutors, the jury and the entire system of American justice.

Friday February 1

When Brenda van Dam returned from the bar at 2 a.m. she found the garage door open. At around 3:30 a.m., Damon van Dam woke and checked on the family dog. He found a sliding door open, closed it, and returned to bed.


"Our nation has come to know the names and faces of too many wonderful children, because they've been the victims of despicable acts of violence, children like Danielle Van Dam and Samantha Runnion. But in our sorrow, we are reminded of the incredible ability of all Americans to support one another in times of need and in times of crisis.

Danielle's mother, Brenda, recently exchanged words of comfort with Samantha's mother, Erin, and here's what was said: We had a conversation, mother to mother, about our daughters, our pain, and also our hope that Danielle and Samantha are dancing together in heaven.

No family should ever have to endure the terrible pain of losing a child. Our nation grieves with every family that has suffered unbearable loss, and our nation will fight the threats against our children. We can take hopeful and practical steps to improve our children's safety, and we will take those steps together.

Thank you all very much. May God continue to protect America's children. Thank you."

-- President George W. Bush


Danielle's friends and her classmates at Creekside Elementary School describe her as a sweet, quiet girl who laughed a lot.

"I think about her every day," Sergey Smirnoff, a 6-year-old classmate, said a few days after her disappearance. "Everybody talks about her. We're trying to figure out how she got lost."

Nearly every day she jotted down her thoughts in a journal she kept at home. Family friend Paula Call said Danielle sometimes explored complex topics for a 7-year-old, like how she could change the world.

They Found A Weird Shell Casing Too!

Like the bedroom shell casing, one can continue to point to the many molehills of inconsistent occurances that exsist outside of the state's theory, but one cannot then ignore the mountain of bizarre evidence and extremely damning DNA that absolutely prove the defendant's recent and prolonged contact with the victim.

Proof that the universe is strange and that anything is possible, does not amount to reasonable doubt when facing evidence that links the murderer to the victim with a certainty of 1 in 130,000,000,000,000,000.

The odds that bloodstains on the defendant's coat weren't Danielle van Dam's are 1 in 130,000,000,000,000,000. There is no doubt that Danielle bled on that jacket.

In all fairness, one has to admit -- it is possible that the child bled on the coat at some earlier time, but what are the odds that the defendant happened to be taking that particular coat to the dry-cleaners at 7 AM after the weekend the child went missing?

A trial is not a search for the remotely possible.

"And I can assure the defense in this matter
, I've given it a lot of -- conscious thought because jury instructions are the mine fields of judges because of the scrutiny that they're placed under on appellate review, but I am absolutely satisfied -- that there is only one theory in this case based on the state of the evidence which is not gonna change regardless of whether this expert testifies or not -- and that is, that this homicide occurred during the course of a kidnapping. There is evidence to establish that the child was home -- that no one had permission to take the child -- and there's obviously evidence linking Mr. Westerfield to the child -- and as a result this jury is either gonna find this was a homicide in the course of a kidnapping or it wasn't."

-- Judge William Mudd

"With today's confirmation that our beloved Danielle will never again be physically present in our lives, we are experiencing the depths of sadness, loss and grief, which only parents who have lost children under similar circumstances can fully comprehend."

"Danielle was a very special, beautiful, loving little girl. We miss her desperately but find comfort in knowing that she is now safe again and at peace."

Feldman - NORML ATTY

NORML Attorney - Steven Feldman