SABRE SPRINGS ---- As the two-week mark of 7-year-old Danielle van Dam's disappearance approached, police said Thursday that they were not any closer to making an arrest in the case.
Meanwhile, a friend of neighbor David Westerfield, who has been interviewed by police but never named as a suspect, told reporters outside Westerfield's home that he believes the negative attention on his friend is unfair.
Don Boomer/Staff Photographer
|Damon and Brenda van Dam hold a recent photograph of their daughter, Danielle, during a press conference in front of their Sabre Springs home on Thursday.
Wes Hill, a 35-year-old Utah resident who said he has known Westerfield for decades, said his visit Thursday to Westerfield's house was his first since Danielle's disappearance. He said he believes his friend had nothing to do with the girl's disappearance.
"There's no doubt in my mind," Hill said. "He's just a sweetheart."
Danielle's parents, Damon and Brenda van Dam, conducted a media conference Thursday to announce that the volunteer search effort, located at what is now called the Danielle Recovery Center at the Doubletree Golf Resort at 14455 Penasquitos Drive, would move Monday to the ReMax Building at Pomerado and Poway roads and would be under new leadership.
The center was originally led by the Texas-based Laura Recovery Center Foundation, but its leaders have trained local volunteers so they can take over, officials said. Retired policewoman Diane Halfman, a friend of the van Dams, will direct the center.
The current center will remain open through the weekend at the Doubletree Golf Resort, and leaders hope to get more volunteers for a massive search effort this weekend.
As they spoke Thursday morning, the van Dams displayed a portrait of Danielle taken before Christmas. Danielle was last seen when her father put her to bed about 10 p.m. Feb. 1. She was discovered missing from the Mountain Pass home the next morning, and police have said that she was abducted.
The van Dams were joined Thursday morning by Marc Klaas, whose 12-year-old daughter, Polly Hannah Klaas, was kidnapped from her Petaluma home in 1993 and later found murdered.
Damon van Dam thanked the police for their efforts to find out what happened to Danielle. He said the family has not heard more from the police other than that fingerprints were taken in their home Wednesday.
Brenda van Dam said it has become more difficult for her to cope with her daughter's disappearance especially because the focus of suspicion remains so close to their home.
"I don't think any of you know what we're going through, and you wouldn't want to walk a day in my shoes ... and I wouldn't wish it on anyone," she said.
"Brenda's getting a little angrier every day," her husband said.
"Somebody knows where my baby is, and it's not me. I just want to go and say, 'Tell me where my baby is,' " Brenda van Dam said.
She added that she will not do so because she does not want to do anything to compromise or interfere with the case.
Klaas told reporters that while he had come to provide support to the van Dams, they have been giving him hope.
"If Danielle made it through that first night ... she's out there," Klaas said.
Brenda van Dam then turned her head and buried her face in her husband's shoulder.
On Wednesday night, detectives went to Westerfield's home ---- two doors down from the van Dams' home ---- and served their second search warrant on the property and took away several boxes of material.
Westerfield, 49, a self-employed engineer, has been questioned several times by detectives. Detectives also have impounded his vehicle, which was later returned, and a motor home.
Westerfield told reporters in the first days that he was cooperating with police. Several days later, he stopped talking with reporters, retained a lawyer, and has mostly remained at home.