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Danielle van Dam - Case Timeline prior to trial of David Westerfield. Feb 2 - May 30, 2002
Crime and Punishment ^ | May 30, 2002 | Bill Bickel

Posted on 05/30/2002 12:18:18 PM PDT by FresnoDA

A fairly complete synopsis of the VD case....some of the links however have expired....FresnoDA

Danielle van Dam
by Bill Bickel

Sometime between 10pm Friday, February 1, 2002, and 9am Saturday, February 2, 7-year-old Danielle van Dam disappeared from her bedroom in the Sabre Springs section of San Diego, California. Her body was found in the desert outside of San Diego on February 27.

Update: May 28
The actual jury selection for David Westerfield's trial began today (previously, potential jurors had been filling out questionnaires)

Analysis: May 21
Why did the defense favor a speedy trial? Probably to take advantage of the public backlash against the van Dams.

Update: May 17
Jury selection began this morning with potential jurors completing questionnaires. The trial date is tentatively set for June 3

Update: May 15
The judge ruled today that some of the pornography on David Westerfield's computer will be allowed as evidence in the trial, and that the jury will only hear limited testimony about the Damon and Branda van Dam's sexual lifestyles (as if anybody living in the San Diego area hasn't already read about it in somewhat-graphic detail)

Update: May 8
Prosecutors want to show the jury a computer animation -- from David Westerfield's computer -- showing a young girl being sexually molested. This, they say, would indicate Westerfield's motive for abducting Danielle. The defense, not surprisingly, has asked the judge not to allow this.

Update: May 7
During a hearing in which lawyers were presenting pre-trial motions, the prosecution disclosed that, based on Danielle's missing teeth, they believe she was suffocated by having something stuffed into her mouth

Update: May 7
The judge has ruled that 6 of the 7 autopsy photos can be admitted as evidence.

Update: May 4
While searching a local dump for evidence in the Jahi Turner disappearance, searchers found documents from the office of the lawyer defending David Westerfield. No details have been released, but the documents were sealed and impounded

Update: April 25
Prosecutors announced today that they will seek the death penalty against David Westerfield.

Update: April 19
A judge has determined that only one of the police officers involved in Westerfield's interrogation had any complaints against him, and handed that information over to Westerfield's attorney (see April 4 update)

Update: April 18
Television and radio broadcasts will be allowed in David Westerfield's trial

Update: April 17
A lawyer representing the news media has filed an appeal requesting that the information that led to the search warrant for David Westerfield's home and vehicle (and, ultimately, his arrest) be released to the public. The defense opposes this disclosure on the grounds that it will influence any potential jury -- and that some of the information won't be admissible in the trial anyway.
(See poll, right-hand column)

Update: April 12
Was David Westerfield "abusively" questioned? Prosecutors offer the police side of the story, insisting the questioning was completely voluntary

Update: April 4
David Westerfield's attorney charges that Westerfield had been questioned "abusively" and denied legal counsel -- and requested the personnel files of everybody involved to determine whether they'd been accused of treating suspects in this manner in the past.

Update: March 28
David Westerfield is arraigned and pleads not guilty. A May 17 trial date was set. The prosecution did not state whether it would ask for the death penalty, and the defense did not state whether it would ask for a change of venue (both sides have until April 18 to file motions). This article includes an analysis of what the defense strategy might be.

Analysis: March 26
Why David Westerfield might prefer a quick trial in San Diego County

  • Also: DNA Evidence: How it's used in general, and how it will be used in the case against David Westerfield
Update: March 14
Brenda van Dam testifies. She mentioned that Westerfield had told her he hosted "adult parties", and Brenda adds "I didn't know what he meant by that". Given the rumors of the van Dams' involvement in activities of this sort -- and the ultimate irrelevance of this information -- it seems a rather odd thing for her to be mentioning.
Update: Brenda van Dam was cross-examined about her sexual lifestyle, her drinking and her drug use. It was a fairly ugly exercise, and this was just a preliminary hearing to determine whether Westerfield should be held over for trial, and its outcome is hardly in doubt: Westerfield's actual trial promises to be far worse.
Update: As expected, David Westerfield has been ordered to stand trial. Arraignment has been scheduled for March 28. Also: During questioning today, Damon van Dam admitted he'd gone to bed with one of Brenda's friends the night Danielle went missing.Update: March 12
Investigators say that David Westerfield had over 64,000 "sexually provocative" pictures of (apparently) teenage girls on his computers.
Update: Westerfield also had 2200 mpeg videos, but the total number of images clearly involving minors is now said to be about 100
Update: Danielle's fingerprints were found in Westerfield's home. The hearing will resume Thursday (March 14)

Update: March 11
At David Westerfield's preliminary hearing, he officially heard the charges against him and the public learned some unpleasant details about the evidence linking him to Danielle's abduction and murder. The hearing will decide whether Westerfield will stand trial, though it's probably safe to call that a foregone conclusion.

Update: March 11
Police investigators describe what made them suspicious of David Westerfield

Update: March 9
Superior Court Judge H. Ronald Domnitz has issued a gag order applying to all parties in the case

Update: March 8
The defense is asking for a gag order relating to this case. The judge is expected to rule later today.
David Westerfield faces a preliminary hearing Monday (March 11).

Update: March 6
Shortly after Danielle's body was found, two San Diego police detectives tried to speak with Westerfield without permission from either the prosecutor's office or Westerfield's lawyer

Update: March 4
The defense is appealing a court order that would make public the details of the search warrants issued for David Westerfield

Update: March 1
Because of the decomposition of the body, the time and cause of death might never be positively determined

Update: February 28
All search efforts have ceased.
Update: An autopsy has officially confirmed that the girl found in the desert was Danielle van Dam

Update: February 28
All search efforts have ceased.
Update: An autopsy has officially confirmed that the girl found in the desert was Danielle van Dam

Update: February 27
A girl's body has been found in the desert just outside of San Diego. Details to follow
Update: Police say there's "a high probability" that the body is Danielle's. Also: Police are searching a dry cleaning establishment where Westerfield reportedly brought both clothing and seat cushions from his motor home, shortly after Danielle's disappearance
"Tonight we believe that Danielle van Dam's body has been found" -San Diego County District Attorney Paul Pfingst
The identification of Danielle's body is virtually certain: Medical tests will be performed, but a plastic necklace and earring similar to those Danielle was wearing when she disappeared were found near the body.

Update: February 26
David Westerfield is charged with murder, kidnapping, and possession of child pornography
Update: He's pleaded "not guilty", and is being held without bond

Update: February 25
"I must conclude that Danielle van Dam is no longer living and was killed by her abductor" -San Diego District Attorney Paul Pfingst
Although Danielle's body has not been found, David Westerfield will be arraigned tomorrow on murder and kidnapping charges.

Update: February 24
San Diego Police Chief David Benjarano confirmed that child pornography had been found in David Westerfield's home.

Update: February 23
More information about the evidence against David Westerfield and how it was acquired. This article also confirms that pornography was found in Westerfield's home, but notes that it has not been determined whether any of females in the photographs were under 18 (last week, UPI referred to Westerfield as being "reportedly a collecter of child pornography")

There appears to have been no basis to the tips earlier this week that Danielle had been spotted in Tijuana

Update: February 22
David Westerfield was arrested at 10:45 this morning (1:45pm EET) and charged with kidnapping Danielle.
Update: Danielle's blood had been found on Westerfield's clothing and in his motor home

Update: February 21
Police returned to the van Dam home today and took away 2 sliding doors from Danielle's room, hoping to find fingerprints or other evidence. Just as an aside: This case has now officially been adopted by the supermarket tabloids, with the cover of this week's Star referring to Danielle as "The New JonBenet".

Update: February 21
Based on several tips, investigators have expanded their search area into Mexico (Tijuana is less than 20 miles from San Diego)

Update: February 20
Investigators are looking into similarities between Danielle's disappearance and a number of other unsolved area disappearances going back almost 30 years.
Update: Police are examining DNA from the case of Patricia Kuzara,, a local 7-year-old girl who was abducted and murdered in 1974

Update: February 16
This UPI story describes David Westerfield as being "reportedly a collecter of child pornography".

Update: February 15
"We will solve this case sooner rather than later ... We have a ton of evidence that we are meticulously going over. We are making progress" -Assistant Chief Steve Creighton of the San Diego Police Department
Unfortunately, noplace in Mr Creighton's statement, which the San Diego Union Tribune refers to as "confident", was there any expectation of actually bringing Danielle home...

Update: February 14
Police searched David Westerfield's home again last night (no word yet on why or what was found), and the van Dams have scheduled a press conference for this morning at 8:00 Pacific Standard Time (11 Eastern Standard Time)
Update: Police searched Westerfield's house for 5 hours and carried out boxes and other items. No further details were announced.
Update: The press conference was a call for more search volunteers

Update: February 13
David Westerfield is now considered the sole suspect, and the FBI is analyzing his DNA. Also, a knapsack found about a mile from the van Dam home seems to be significant, but the police aren't elaborating.

Update: February 13
"We are not real hopeful on her condition" - Lieutenant Jim Duncan, San Diego homicide detective

Update: February 12
A local bail bondsman has put up a $50,000 reward for information about Danielle's abduction, and her parents have hired one of the country's biggest PR firms to coordinate their media appearances.

Update: February 11
Danielle's parents offer a $25,000 reward, as the investigation seems to be at a standstill

Update: February 11
A Newsweek article about the case, mentioning how the public's attention ("the media's attention" might be more accurate) is becoming increasingly focused on Damon and Brenda van Dam's alleged "swinger" lifestyle. This article still mentions David Westerfield's RV having been stuck in the desert on February 2, the day of Danielle's disappearance, when in fact it's now believed that this happened on February 3.

Update: February 11
A quote from today's Washington Times (italics mine): "Danielle was apparently abducted while she slept and her parents were reportedly busy partying with some friends behind locked doors"

Update: February 10
Facts presented without comment: A man who moved next door to the van Dams two days before Danielle's disappearance says that the morning she went missing, Damon asked him if he'd seen her, telling him she has a habit of sleepwalking.

Update: February 9
According to this San Diego Union-Tribune article, the public is starting to question aspects of the van Dams' account (and their lifestyle). What they're really saying here is that the media's starting to turn on them.

Update: February 9
A look at the circumstantial case against David Westerfield
February 10 Update: The tow truck driver's account of pulling Westerfield's RV out of the sand in the desert Saturday, February 2, is now thought to be in error: Evidence indicates this actually happened Sunday, February 3

Update: February 7
David Westerfield, though still not officially a suspect, has hired a lawyer.

There are definitely some odd aspects to this case: the fact that Damon van Dam thought nothing of the fact that a door was open at 1:30am comes to mind. Odder, perhaps, is Damon's description of Westerfield as "an acquaintance. He's not a friend ... We've seen him since we moved in", though his wife, Brenda, had been dancing with Westerfield at a bar the night of Danielle's disappearance (before midnight).

Update: February 7
Today, Danielle's parents were driven by police to a remote area of the desert outside of San Diego. Police aren't revealing any specifics, but this is believed to be the area where David Westerfield was camping Saturday (hours after Danielle's disappearance)

Update: February 6
This article details some of the evidence that makes David Westerfield a suspect in Danielle's disappearance (though police have not officially named him as a suspect and in fact have not actually released his name)

Update: February 5
A neighbor, David Westerfield, whom police are saying is "not under arrest", is being questioned.
Update: Westerfield's car has been impounded, after investigators searching it found evidence connected with the case.

Update: February 4
Police are treating the disappearance of the 7-year-old San Diego-area girl as an abduction. She was last seen in her bedroom Friday night. At 1:30am her father, Damon van Dam, noticed that a burglar alarm light was blinking, and a door was open.

February 3
The original news story

TOPICS: Crime/Corruption; Extended News; News/Current Events; US: California
KEYWORDS: vandam; westerfield
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To: FresnoDA
Touche', you got me on the pizza party comment...I'm still laughing.
41 posted on 05/30/2002 4:21:48 PM PDT by vacrn
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To: Jaded
Thanks for the ping. So here we go, huh? I think this will be more interesting than OJ.

At least with that, most of us probably knew he was guilty and the defense was somewhat of a joke. This one is very different and I expect some intriguing testimony and presentations by both the prosecution and the defense.

Buckle up !!!!!!!!

42 posted on 05/30/2002 4:39:44 PM PDT by Southflanknorthpawsis
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To: Southflanknorthpawsis;Jaded;FresnoDA;MizSterious
Well, shucks!

Tuesday morning, I've got a committment to go and feed the poor. Since we are two hours behind, I will probably be home after it starts! I am so depressed....Can't get out of it. Why me?????


43 posted on 05/30/2002 4:48:46 PM PDT by spectre
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To: Southflanknorthpawsis;Registered

(excerpt from Post #40) 

Before jury selection began, Mudd ruled that jurors will hear only limited information on the "swinging" lifestyle of the victim's parents.

"altLOOK van Dam nit!!!!! We do not want our "Private and Personal lives drug through the sand," said The Demon and the Bren, "That is, unless you are a member of Club CB, in which case for just $9.95 and your personal tattoo identification mark, we would be happy to give you access to our "Private and Personal" lives!!!

Thanks gang......The VD P.R. Machine!!

44 posted on 05/30/2002 4:52:34 PM PDT by FresnoDA
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To: demsux;~Kim4VRWC's~;vacrn;FresnoDA;Southflanknorthpawsis;spectre;RnMomof7;skipjackcity...
I don't know about you guys, but I think Feldman has to have an ace. The media and the talking heads are too busy going on about how unheard of this is. Feldman is NO Slouch. Plenty of fireworks.
45 posted on 05/30/2002 4:59:11 PM PDT by Jaded
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To: Jaded;FresnoDA
Thank you Jaded for adding me to your list,that is...;))

Thanks FresnoDA, you have done a super job keeping everyone up to date. Great news,a jury chosen.

46 posted on 05/30/2002 5:02:41 PM PDT by BARLF
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To: FresnoDA
I would think that should have been one of the defenses questions to the jurors "do you do group pizza?"
47 posted on 05/30/2002 5:07:22 PM PDT by RnMomof7
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To: Jaded
I don't know about you guys, but I think Feldman has to have an ace.

It sure seems like he must or this is one risky bluff. I'm on the edge of my !! But seriously, I think he is as good as his reputation suggests and this ought to be a good one.

48 posted on 05/30/2002 5:16:56 PM PDT by Southflanknorthpawsis
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To: spectre
Why me?????


That's okay, we will fill you in. Some will even embellish for you. ;^)

49 posted on 05/30/2002 5:19:02 PM PDT by Southflanknorthpawsis
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To: Jaded
I don't know about you guys, but I think Feldman has to have an ace.

I think his ace is an alibi witness (Glennie Nasland???)who was with DW for at least part of the evening...

50 posted on 05/30/2002 5:48:02 PM PDT by demsux
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Can someone tell me how to contact the moderator concerning unwanted freepmail?


51 posted on 05/30/2002 6:17:12 PM PDT by hergus
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To: FresnoDA
Opening statements in the Westerfield murder trial are scheduled to start at 10 a.m. next Tuesday.

Oh my, it's showtime!

52 posted on 05/30/2002 6:17:59 PM PDT by brneyedgirl
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To: RnMomof7
I would think that should have been one of the defenses questions to the jurors "do you do group pizza?"

LOL "Hold the meat please"

53 posted on 05/30/2002 6:26:45 PM PDT by Freedom2specul8
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To: ~Kim4VRWC's~
LOL "Hold the meat please"

OHHHHHHHHHH Kim that has 2 meanings ..LOL

54 posted on 05/30/2002 6:28:03 PM PDT by RnMomof7
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To: hergus
You can privately freepmail the "Admin Moderator" and ask for advice..I doubt there would be any control..but it never hurts to ask. They normally will reply..just make the subject line ''stand out''. :)
55 posted on 05/30/2002 6:30:56 PM PDT by Freedom2specul8
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To: RnMomof7
I *knew* you would get that.. ;-D
56 posted on 05/30/2002 6:31:25 PM PDT by Freedom2specul8
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To: ~Kim4VRWC's~
I am a nurse :>))
57 posted on 05/30/2002 7:09:21 PM PDT by RnMomof7
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To: hergus
I have gotten all kinds of UNWANTED freep mail (and sent some too:>)...sooooooooo what? I also get junk mail in my snail mail.So what?.I simply FR the person and tell them I do not want any more and that I will not read it..and I do not read it I delete it without reading it

Unless they threatened you or your family physically I say give it up and do not be a cry baby!

58 posted on 05/30/2002 7:13:50 PM PDT by RnMomof7
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To: demsux
THE COURT: I see what you want. You wanted this 8 person to come in specifically to testify about who was 9 dancing with whom, correct?

10 MR. FELDMAN: Correct. And --

11 THE COURT: And what other?

12 MR. FELDMAN: And intoxication as an affirmative 13 defense, our client's intoxication, and potentially as an 14 alibi.

This is where Feldman is referring to Glennie Nasland...sounds like DW was "wasted" and either got a ride home from GN (which leaves his vehicle at Dad's) OR spent the night with GN (which would be his alibi).

59 posted on 05/30/2002 7:14:47 PM PDT by demsux
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To: demsux;all
That'd be a hoot!!! Here we've been told how everyone was checked out. LOL. Hugz. Kizzez. LOL.

Hold on tight, at least we won't be stressin'. So do your homework over the next 4 days. Don't be caught unawares.

60 posted on 05/30/2002 8:02:03 PM PDT by Jaded
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