Skip to comments.Child killer has proclaimed innocence in cards, visits
Posted on 01/03/2003 7:26:19 AM PST by Jaded
Early last month, Dave Laspisa, a Poway businessman, opened his mail and discovered a holiday card from his old friend David Westerfield.
"Greetings of the Seasons," the card announced, and inside was a handwritten note of thanks for Laspisa's support.
Van Dams file lawsuit against Westerfield
During the past year, Laspisa has been fairly vocal in his belief that Westerfield, his camping buddy, had nothing to do with the murder of 7-year-old Danielle van Dam.
"Please know that I was not involved in the death of this child," Westerfield wrote. "I'm saying this to you not to solicit more help but only to give you direct knowledge."
The card's imprinted message offered a wish that "the beauty of the season fill each heart with joy and cheer, and happiness fill every moment of the coming year."
In the past several months, friends and relatives have either received cards from Westerfield or visited him in the county jail as he awaits sentencing for abducting and killing the Sabre Springs second-grader, who lived two doors away. The sentencing is scheduled for this morning in San Diego Superior Court.
The former design engineer, who turns 51 next month, tells everyone essentially the same thing: He has been convicted of a crime he didn't commit.
He says he has no idea how the girl's blood got on his jacket or how her fingerprints got in his motor home. He says news reports of an aborted pretrial plea bargain are off base. He says he wanted to testify but stayed silent on his lawyers' advice.
Asked about the child pornography in his house, he told one friend, former business associate Carmen Genovese, that he was simply collecting the images so he could send them to Congress as examples of smut on the Internet.
Most of his friends aren't quite sure what to think at this point. At least one has come to the conclusion that Westerfield is probably guilty. Others, including Laspisa, still refuse to accept the prosecution's basic theory that Westerfield is a pedophile who raped the child before killing her.
To a person, all of his friends continue to wrestle with the idea that a guy they thought they knew a man who barbecued with them and shared holidays with them, a man who spent time with their children could be capable of such a crime.
"I want to believe him because I feel like I know him," said Genovese's wife, D'Onn, who has been friends with Westerfield for 10 years. "And I don't want to believe him because that means there was funny business on the police side and there's someone still out there who does these things to children."
The sentencing is set for 8:30 a.m. today before Superior Court Judge William Mudd and will be carried live by several television stations, the final bit of drama in a case that has received more media attention than any other in San Diego County history.
In September, a jury recommended the death penalty for Westerfield, but Mudd has the authority to impose a sentence of life in prison without parole instead.
To some degree, today's proceeding represents one of the final loose ends in Westerfield's life. His house on Mountain Pass Road was sold months ago for $435,000, with the proceeds going to his lawyers. So were his sport utility vehicle and the dune buggies he took on camping trips to the desert. Many of his clothes have been given to charity.
Westerfield's 37-foot motor home inside of which, prosecutors say, the girl was killed at some point during the first weekend of February 2002 is in police custody and will be repossessed by a bank once he is sent to prison.
Westerfield, meanwhile, sits in the county jail in downtown San Diego, where he is isolated from other prisoners and where he has received a steady stream of visitors who speak to him through a closed-circuit television feed.
His college-age son and daughter have visited him about twice a month since his conviction. So have his sister and her husband.
During several visits with John Neal, the brother of Westerfield's second ex-wife, Westerfield talked about an appeal while recognizing that he's in for a long wait.
"He said he's getting claustrophobic being stuck in the jail and not having any hope of getting out soon," Neal said.
As for the girl's kidnapping and murder, Neal said, Westerfield has been consistent: "He has no idea what happened to Danielle. He had nothing to do with it."
Despite the enormous amount of physical evidence, despite the holes in Westerfield's alibi, despite the documented falsehoods in the stories he told to police and despite the collection of child porn, Neal said he's inclined to believe his former brother-in-law.
So, too, is Carmen Genovese, who has known Westerfield since the two men worked together 20 years ago at a company that manufactured orthopedic devices.
Until recently, Genovese, who lives in Encinitas, hadn't spoken to Westerfield since his conviction. Genovese's wife admits the couple had been troubled by his defense. In short, she said, they felt as if their friend behaved during the trial like a guilty man trying to avoid punishment.
If he had been wrongfully accused, D'Onn Genovese wondered, why hadn't he taken the witness stand to "shout it from the tallest mountain"?
Then in mid-December, a holiday card from Westerfield arrived. Like the card to Laspisa, it contained a handwritten note in which Westerfield denied any involvement in the crime.
Two days before Christmas, Genovese visited Westerfield in jail and they spoke for more than an hour, during which Genovese peppered his friend with question after question about the evidence.
How did Danielle's blood get on Westerfield's jacket, which he took to a dry cleaner at daybreak after returning from the meandering, 550-mile motor-home journey on the morning of Feb. 4?
"He says he has no clue how it got there," Genovese said.
Why didn't he testify or show emotion during the trial? It was all his lawyers' doing, Westerfield said.
"He was told in fact, he was admonished a few times on the side not to show any emotion," Genovese said.
What about the story in the Union-Tribune that Westerfield's lawyers tried to broker a plea bargain in February whereby he would reveal the location of the girl's body in exchange for a life sentence rather than the death penalty? Sources have confirmed those details in numerous conversations with the Union-Tribune, both before and after the article's publication.
In that matter, Westerfield didn't go into much detail with Genovese, other than to say it was the prosecution that approached the defense with the suggestion and that his lawyers simply listened to the offer. Westerfield's lawyers have declined to speak to the Union-Tribune.
Did Genovese find Westerfield's explanations persuasive?
"The guy is really a nice man," Genovese said. "I don't know whether he did it or not. I really don't. He tells me he didn't do it, and I have to believe him."
Not all of Westerfield's friends are as charitable. Wes Hill, the best man at Westerfield's second wedding, said the article about the aborted plea bargain convinced him that Westerfield committed the crime.
Hill, a former design drafter who lives in Utah, hasn't spoken to Westerfield since the trial and hopes his old friend "will go through some psychiatric counseling and get some help. He definitely went off the deep end."
"The only thing I can figure is that the pornography must have taken its toll," Hill said. "He got hooked into that and it warped his mind."
As for Laspisa, who has been outspoken in his support of Westerfield, he allows himself to say this much: "I do believe the real story has not been told."
In a recent interview, Laspisa acknowledged the possibility that Westerfield might have been involved in Danielle's death. But he refused to accept that Westerfield sneaked into the girl's bedroom with the intent of kidnapping, raping and killing her.
Laspisa speculated that perhaps the victim was sleepwalking in the neighborhood on the night of Feb. 1 and that Westerfield, driving home drunk from a bar in Poway, hit her, killed her and then panicked.
"In my mind, in my opinion, if it happened, it didn't happen the way it was presented in court," he said.
Laspisa is convinced of one thing, and on this point his views converge with those of virtually everyone else: No one except Westerfield will ever know exactly what he was thinking on that first weekend in February.
It will be on Court TV, probably with interruptions. KFMB. Rick Roberts will cover it as well. KUSI. Mostly local stations. It is said to begin at 8:30 LCT.
, former business associate Carmen Genovese, that he was simply collecting the images so he could send them to Congress as examples of smut on the Internet
and had mixed feelings..between feeling anger and being ill.
Westerfield will remain safe in isolation, and hopefully will hire someone to dig into this case, IF Brenda and Damon don't succeed in stripping him of all his financial means to hire someone.
His Christmas card to friends was music to my ears.
Yes, probably best to keep them together.
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