Skip to comments.Van Dam's on Americas Most Wanted, Sat. March 2, 2002 TRANSCRIPTS! (Story continues to change!)
Posted on 03/04/2002 3:27:44 PM PST by FresnoDA
Damon Van Dam: As soon as I came down I noticed it was the back sliding glass door that was open.
John Walsh: You are getting ready to go through a tough trial.
Brenda Van Dam: They can rip us to shreds if they want to. But all that matters is someone has hurt my daughter.
An exclusive report.
And now from San Diego, John Walsh:
John Walsh: Good Evening. Imagine one morning you go to your daughters bedroom, open her door to wake her up and shes gone. Well thats exactly what happened in this very house to little 7 year-old Danielle Van Dam. And when she disappeared this familys worst nightmare began.
(Voice from Video montage of Danielle In the Arms of the Angels)
John Walsh: Danielle Van Dams face has been all over America, an adorable little girl. The entire nation fell in love with Danielle and prayed for her safe return ever since she disappeared. San Diego police went on high alert to find the 2nd grader. Missing posters covered Southern California. While hundreds of volunteers including the marines joined the massive search. The investigation fanned out all the way to the desert, and even across the border into Mexico.
Last week a surprise arrest in the case. David Westerfield, one of the Van Dams neighbors and the main suspect, for Danielles kidnapping. He gave no information about what happened to Danielle.
But we all learned the answer on Wednesday when searchers found Danielles body in a canyon less than an hour from her home. That answer, however, only raised more searing questions. How could this have happened and why?
With the help of the Van Dams and police we piece together the events of the days before and after her disappearance.
John Walsh: It all seems to start the week before Danielle vanished. Danielles mother Brenda Van Dam was with some girlfriends at a local hangout. David Westerfield was also at the Club that night. Brenda knew Westerfield lived in the neighborhood, but didnt know him socially. It seems Westerfield tried to change that.
Brenda: ...He did buy us drinks, but we werent talking to him at all. We didnt really, didnt really interact with him that much or socialize with him.
John Walsh: 4 days later Brenda and Danielle were selling Girl Scout cookies in the neighborhood. Westerfields house was on the route.
Brenda Van Dam: When I went to sell him Girl Scout cookies he said to me your friends look like a lot of fun why didnt you introduce me to them? and I said, I dont even know your first name. And he said, Well tell your friends you have a rich neighbor that would like to meet them. And I said well ok we might be going this Friday, I wasnt sure if I could get a sitter or not and Ill introduce you.
John Walsh: That Friday Brenda and her girlfriends went back to the club, while her husband stayed home with the kids. Westerfield showed up.
Brenda Van Dam: So we were sitting at the ummm the bar area. He was right behind us and he said ummm ladies dont buy their own drinks, let me buy you a drink. So we thought, well thats nice. I told him at one point, I had turned my back that I was here to be with my friends, I didnt, I didnt mean to be rude. Cause I felt kind of guilty about turning my back to a person that had just bought me a drink. At one point he was just standing and staring at us.
John Walsh: Westerfield finally left the bar and that was the last Brenda saw of him that night. Brenda and her friends came back here to the house and her husband Damon got up and they ate pizza til about 2:30 in the morning and then the friends left. At that time Damon and Brenda went upstairs to bed thinking that they had closed up the house. About an hour later Damon woke up in this bedroom and he noticed a blinking alarm light. Now that meant one thing, a door was open somewhere.
Damon: So I went down to investigate as soon as I came down I noticed it was the back sliding glass door that was open. Cold air was coming in. What I assumed was that someone had a cigarette and had ashed it out there because a couple of the people that were over smoked. Uh, closed the back door and went back up to bed. Thought nothing.
John Walsh: The next morning Brenda went to Danielles room to wake her up and she was gone. We dont know where David Westerfield went after he left the bar. He has said he got in his motorhome the next morning around 9:30 and left his neighborhood of Sabre Springs. He ended up 30 miles south to Silver Strand State Beach a campsite for motorhomes. He self-registered at the campground indicating that he was staying for 2 nights at $12.00 a night. But by mistake Westerfield overpaid by $30.00. Later that afternoon the park ranger showed up at his RV to give him his money back.
Park Ranger: The door opened, I asked him if he was Mr. Westerfield, he said he was, and said goodbye.
John Walsh: But oddly enough even though Westerfield paid for two nights he didnt end up staying that long. Instead he packed up and drove to Glamis, 125 miles East in the desert. But there Westerfield ran into a problem. His motorhome got stuck in the soft sand well off the beaten path. Two hikers happened to find him the next morning and contacted tow truck driver Dan Conklin.
Dan Conklin: He made a comment that he was familiar with the area, that he knew better to be in here, but he did it anyway, and that to me seems a little strange. He kept asking me if I was sure that I could get him out, and I kept having to reassure him that I could get him out. I eventually did get him out and he didnt get out of his motorhome. I uh told him I was going to come back and get my wood and get his leveling blocks and I would meet him back on the hard pack road behind us, and when I came over to get the wood and the leveling ramps, I turned around to see him get back onto the hard pack road and head towards the highway and he left.
John Walsh: Dan says Westerfield never waited to get his leveling ramps, he just took off. Monday morning Westerfield returned home police went to his house and with his permission started a routine search.
(Interview of DW in front of his house with reporters)
Question: Are you the homeowner here?
DW: Yes, Um huh
Question: Why would they come into your house)
DW: ummm well youd have to ask them, I was gone all weekend, so, and I offered to let them look through everything and check it out basically.
John Walsh: Soon police impounded Westerfields SUV & Motorhome. Investigators continued to search his house. And left his house with evidence. For 18 days he came and went as a free man.
Ken & John (DJs from KFI Radio in Los Angeles yelling at DW through car window): Hey Westerfield did you kill Danielle?
John Walsh: That changed on Friday February 22nd. Police said they finally found the evidence they were looking for. Danielles blood on a piece of Westerfields clothing and in his motorhome. They took him into custody.
Department 11 of the superior court is now in session.
John Walsh: During Westerfields arraignment earlier this week prosecutors added child pornography and murder to the list of charges.
Judge: How do you plead to the list of charges in the complaint, guilty or not guilty?
David Westerfield: Not guilty
Judge: Okay do you deny the allegations?
David Westerfield: Yes sir.
John Walsh: It was agonizing for me to sit in the courtroom and see the Van Dams pain. Knowing they still had no idea where their baby was. That evening I sat down with the Van Dams to talk about what lay ahead for them.
John Walsh: There was the arraignment, you know I felt honored to be there cause that was the first time I met you, I had talked to you on the phone so much that I had felt like I had gotten to know you and know about your family and your boys and how much you loved Danielle. Are you prepared for the downside? Youre getting ready to go through a tough trial. This is going to be a high profile trial.
Brenda Van Dam: I think were prepared.
John Walsh: You know most people that uh were never victims of crime dont realize how brutal these things can be. And they can be very brutal and mean spirited, umm are you prepared for that?
Brenda Van Dam: Yes, none of that matters, all that matters is Danielle. Nothing else matters. They can rip us to shreds if they want to, but the focus here is someone has hurt our daughter, taken our daughter, we dont have her. None of the other matters, none of the other stuff matters to me.
John Walsh: Having been involved for years now with thousands of cases of missing children, I think the toughest thing is for families that have other children and you have two other children. How is the family doing? How are the boys doing?
Brenda Van Dam: Well from day one we have totally straightforward with them. They know their sister did not walk out of the house they know their sister was taken from our home, umm, they know of our search efforts we take them to the search center. Umm we also talk about the possibility that she might be in heaven with grandpa.
John Walsh: I dont think anybody is prepared for the bad news in the case of a missing child. Are you prepared for that reality if that is the reality?
Damon Van Dam: Weve cried
Brenda Van Dam: Weve gone over it, weve talked, you cant lose that little ounce
Damon Van Dam: Weve gone over it for a long time umm you know you try to prepare as best you can, All I know is you cant really prepare, and we do keep holding out hope
(They both are talking at the same time here, so it is a little hard to hear them both)
John Walsh: Thousands of searchers shared the same hope. Volunteers from all over kept looking for Danielle day and night. On Wednesday two of those searchers discovered what they prayed theyd never find, the body of Danielle Van Dam. There is still much work to do. Many questions remain. And thats where you can help. Police would still like to know more about the movements of David Westerfield in the days before and after Danielles disappearance. Heres what they do know. David Westerfield first appears with his motorhome here at Silver Strand State Beach, he then travels 125 to Glamis in the desert. Danielles body was discovered here near El Cajon. Anyone who spotted David Westerfield or his motorhome on February 2nd or 3rd might be able to shed more light on what happened that weekend. If you have any information about this case, please call us at 1-800-crime-tv.
Danielle was last seen wearing blue flowered pajamas with flowers
Her favorite colors are pink and purple
Danielle belongs to her local Brownie troop
Family friends have set up a website at: http://daniellemissing.tripod.com
San Diego police are scouring the Sabre Springs area for 7-year-old Danielle van Dam. Police say Danielle's parents, Damon and Brenda van Dam, reported her missing when they discovered Danielle was not in her room at about 9 a.m. Saturday, February 2, 2002.
Damon told police he put Danielle and her two brothers to bed at around 10:30 Friday night while Brenda was out celebrating with friends until about 2 a.m. Saturday, a send-off for a woman who was leaving the area, detectives said. When Brenda arrived home with four friends at about 2 am, police say they ate pizza with Damon and talked for about an hour. Shortly after the friends left, police say Damon and Brenda told them they noticed lights blinking on their burglar alarm panel and found a sliding glass door and a side garage door open. Police say the alarm was not set, but the panel is a type that indicates when doors and windows are opened and shut at all times. The couple told police they closed the doors and went to bed, and did not check on the children.
Saturday morning, police say the couple told them a friend stopped by at about 9 am to see if Danielle could come out and play. Damon and Brenda told police that they thought Danielle was still sleeping and that Brenda went to wake Danielle. That is when police say the couple discovered Danielle was missing from her room and called 9-1-1.
Police began investigating immediately, using helicopters, horses and dogs to search the area canyons for Danielle, a second-grader at Creekside Elementary School in Sabre Springs. Officers also conducted door-to-door searches and provided the Border Patrol and Customs Service with photos of Danielle to keep watch for her at the border. Detectives additionally interviewed family members, neighbors, schoolmates and friends about the disappearance, hoping to develop leads, but had no luck.
Danielle was last seen wearing blue pajamas with flowers. She is white, 4 feet tall and weighs about 58 pounds. She has blue eyes and blond hair.
Police say at this point the parents are not considered suspects and have been extremely cooperative with investigators. Police are considering one of the van Dam's neighbors to be the prime suspect. Police have searched his home and impounded his vehicles. At the time of this writing, an arrest has not been made.
1. Kids Put To Bed at 10:30 P.M., by Damon VD.
2. Brenda arrives at VD residence at 2:00 A.M. with FOUR FRIENDS
3. Brenda and her friends "The Four Amigos" eat pizza with Damon, and talk for about one hour.
4. 3:00 A.M., "The Four Amigos" depart the VD residence.
5. Damon and Brenda notice the alarm lights blinking.
6. Damon and Brenda notice BOTH the sliding glass door AND the side garage door are open.
7. Damon and Brenda note that alarm was not SET but was only in the monitoring mode.
8. Damon and Brenda tell police they closed all doors, and went to bed.
9. Damon and Brenda DID NOT CHECK on the condition of the children.
10. Approximate time, 3:15 A.M.
March 4, 2002
SAN DIEGO A judge agreed Monday to release search warrant documents filed in the case of the abduction and death of a 7-year-old Danielle van Dam but the order was stayed pending a defense appeal.
San Diego County Superior Court Judge Cynthia Bashant ordered the documents unsealed except for material that is sexually explicit or would be inadmissible in the trial of David Westerfield, 50, the neighbor accused of kidnapping and murdering the San Diego girl.
The judge's decision came in response to a request filed by an attorney for The San Diego Union-Tribune. Media are interested in the documents because they are expected to provide additional details about Westerfield and why he fell under suspicion shortly after Danielle's disappearance.
Danielle was reported missing on Feb. 2 and became the subject of an intense search effort involving thousands of volunteers. Her body was found last week in an oak grove off a rural road east of the city of El Cajon.
Westerfield, who lives two doors from the van Dams, has pleaded innocent to murder, kidnapping and child pornography charges. His attorney, Steven Feldman, has sought to block the release of the affidavits for warrants to search Westerfield's home and vehicles.
It was not immediately known when the state appellate court would rule on Feldman's request.
The appeals court directed attorneys for the District Attorney's Office and the San Diego Union-Tribune -- which requested that the documents be made public -- to respond to the 50-year-old, self-employed engineer's petition by Friday.
"The Superior Court is directed to transfer under seal to this court all records pertaining to the search warrants executed in this case, i.e., search warrant affidavits, returns, inventories, papers filed in connection with the motion to seal and sealing orders," the appeals court wrote in a one-page order.
In conditionally granting the newspaper's request, Bashant ordered released all search warrant affidavits with the exception of two photo exhibits. Two attachments labeled "sexually explicit material" should also remain sealed, Bashant said.
She also granted a motion by Westerfield and the District Attorney's Office to redact, or edit out, material that would be inadmissible at trial.
"The court finds that Westerfield's right to a fair trial is an overriding interest that overcomes the right of public access to this portion of the record and there is substantial probability that he would be prejudiced by the unsealing," Bashant wrote.
The unredacted affidavits may be unsealed at the conclusion of Westerfield's trial, the judge said.
According to the search warrants released last week, police searched Westerfield's two-story home for "lifts" from footwear; binding materials, such as tape or rope; and videos, CDs, prints or other depictions showing nudity or sexual activities involving juveniles.
Officers also searched Westerfield's computer for sexual images, according to the search warrants. A separate warrant reflects that investigators also searched Westerfield's Toyota 4Runner, his motor home and a 1998 car carrier.
Additionally, officers were looking for children's pajamas, "Mickey Mouse" earrings and diaries or letters relating to juvenile abduction, according to one of the warrants.
When Westerfield was arrested Feb. 22, police Chief David Bejarano said detectives found traces of Danielle's blood on a piece of Westerfield's clothing.
It was also reported that Westerfield's DNA had been found in the child's bedroom, and that child pornography had been taken from his home.
Westerfield, 50, who lived two doors from the van Dams in Sabre Springs, pleaded innocent to charges of murder, kidnapping, possession of child pornography and a special circumstance allegation of murder during a kidnapping.
A high-ranking police official told the Union-Tribune that investigators believe Westerfield kidnapped the second-grader for sexual purposes.
The defendant also failed a lie-detector test, the newspaper reported.
If convicted, Westerfield could face the death penalty.
On Wednesday, not long after Bashant ordered the unsealing of the search warrants, Danielle's badly decomposed body was discovered under a tree along Dehesa Road, east of El Cajon.
The Union-Tribune reported Westerfield was harassed by other inmates when he was escorted into the downtown jail last week. Sheriff's officials told the paper that inmates "screamed obscenities and said they wanted to kill" him.
Killers of children rank as the "lowest of the low" on the jailhouse pecking order, the officials said.
Danielle's parents have asked that people remember the child at a place where she liked to play.
Parents Brenda and Damon van Dam asked that mourners not add to a memorial where the girl's body was found. Instead, they said they would prefer that mementos be left at a mini-park where the girl liked to play. They said that was a happier place to remember the slain child.
On Thursday, an impromptu memorial sprang up along Dehesa Road, where a volunteer searcher finally found the body of the blond, blue-eyed girl dumped amid some trash.
A public memorial service has been set for March 16 at La Jolla Shores Beach. It was not clear when the body would be released to the family, and funeral arrangements are pending.
From 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. today, a candlelight vigil will be held at the Sabre Springs Recreational Center, where child identification kits and safety tip sheets on how to keep kids safe will be distributed.
Not anymore. Apparently the Van Dams had the items at the memorial picked up and moved to another location last night. What a warm, caring family.
Not anymore. Apparently the Van Dams had the items at the memorial picked up and moved to another location last night. What a warm, caring family.
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