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Damon van Dam scours desert for Danielle as number of volunteer searchers drops

Staff Writer

SABRE SPRINGS ---- An optimistic Damon van Dam spent more than eight hours Saturday meticulously searching barren desert dunes and posting fliers at small businesses throughout east San Diego and Imperial counties in the hope of finding his missing 7-year-old daughter.

A search team from the San Diego County Sheriff's Department will look for Danielle van Dam in an area of Poway today.

On Saturday, shortly after dawn and well into the twilight hours, Damon van Dam and a high school friend drove a blue van across large sections of sun-dappled desert in areas such as Glamis, Ocotillo, Borrego Springs and Brawley. They handed out scores of fliers seeking help in finding Danielle, a Creekside Elementary second-grader who police say was last seen by her father Feb. 1 when he tucked her into bed at the family's home on Mountain Pass Road.

Police have said they believe the girl was abducted and that detectives have focused their investigation on a neighbor who lives two houses away. No arrests have been made, nor have any signs of Danielle surfaced.

Meanwhile, nearly 170 volunteers from the Danielle Recovery Center spent the day scouring the same desert locations for clues into Danielle's disappearance, coordinators said. The search efforts were being orchestrated from several locations, including the Glamis Beach Store, the Ocotillo Volunteer Fire Department and Christmas Circle in Borrego Springs.

"Although we are searching out here in the desert areas, I don't want people to stop searching San Diego," said Damon van Dam, who also spent part of Saturday recruiting more people to help search for his daughter.

Members of the San Diego County Sheriff's Search and Rescue Team will search a northern area of Poway close to the van Dams' Sabre Springs home today, police officials said Friday.

The region, bordered by Espola and Poway roads, has not been searched, and police said last week that they have information that a search in that vicinity will be useful. They have not said why they waited until today to search that area and San Diego police Capt. Ron Newman declined to comment further on the planned search.

Van Dam advised not to search

Damon van Dam was advised by police not to search the desert himself because crucial evidence discovered may be tainted as a result of his involvement with the case, his wife Brenda, 39, said Friday. (HUH???FDA)

But Damon van Dam said Saturday he was traversing the desert with information about Danielle because it was an opportune time to reach throngs of people who are in the desert for the three-day Presidents Day weekend.

A neighbor of the van Dams, David Westerfield, 49, told reporters and police that he was in the desert the weekend Danielle disappeared. The neighbor has been questioned repeatedly by police, and investigators have impounded his motor home and taken several items from his house for analysis, police have said.

Volunteers dwindle

The number of volunteer searchers Saturday had dwindled substantially since last weekend, when the Danielle Recovery Center was established at the Double Tree Golf Resort in Carmel Mountain Ranch, coordinators said.

About 170 people are searching this weekend, a little more than half of the center's goal of 300 searchers. Last weekend, more than 400 searchers participated in the hunt.

"We are at the mercy of whoever walks through our doors," said Fiona Oberrick, a deputy director of the center. "We are so grateful for all of the selfless generosity of the hundreds of volunteers and donations from local businesses."

Oberrick said people returning to work last Monday and those with travel plans this weekend contributed to the decline in the number of searchers.

Marc Klaas, founder of the Polly Klaas Foundation, said the public may lose interest in the case if media coverage gradually declines.

Klaas said he believes people will be sympathetic to Danielle's disappearance and want to help if they see the little girl's face in the media frequently.

"We need to create an effort to encourage people to come back on a regular basis (to volunteer)", said Klaas whose 12-year-old daughter, Polly Hannah Klaas, was kidnapped from her Petaluma home in 1993 and later found murdered

66 posted on 02/18/2002 3:50:53 PM PST by FresnoDA
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To: FresnoDA
Wish I could pull up the Larry King interview with the Van Dams and post it.

I did see them on Larry King. King asked them point blank if they were involved in swinging? They stuttered, stammered and looked like two deer caught in the headlights. Now, if someone had asked me or my husband if we were involved in sex outside of our own marriage, the answer would be a LOUD and DEFINITE "Not only NO..but Hell NO"! They had their chance and did not deny it, not even a hint it might not be true. Instead, they asked the subject be changed to focus on Danielle, not them. Class act, these two.

What went on in the house that evening has everything to do with the investigation of what happened to their daughter, and by not "talking" about it, doesn't make it go away. In fact, it is having just the opposite effect. Me thinks they protest way too much.


67 posted on 02/18/2002 4:08:06 PM PST by spectre
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