Skip to comments.Westerfield On Trial (WEEK 1 Recap): Brenda Van Dam, Dad's Bar
Posted on 06/06/2002 10:15:36 PM PDT by FresnoDA
Westerfield, 50, is accused of abducting and killing 7-year-old Danielle van Dam and could face the death penalty if convicted. The child's mother reported her missing the morning of Feb. 2.
Brenda van Dam told prosecutor Jeff Dusek she disclosed to officers everything about her "open marriage" once they made it clear that it was important.
The mother said she didn't discuss her decision not to disclose information with her husband.
"I would have told (the police) anything they needed to get Danielle back," the mother said.Brenda van Dam said nothing else was taken the night Danielle was abducted.
"I wish they'd taken everything else but her," the mother said tearfully.
Earlier in the day, Brenda van Dam testified there were never any sex parties at her Sabre Springs home.
She later said that during a Halloween party last October, she and her husband had sex with a friend and her husband in the van Dam home.
Westerfield, a self-employed engineer, is accused of kidnapping the second- grader, killing her and dumping the body near rural Dehesa Road, where it was found more than three weeks after she disappeared.
Brenda van Dam broke down a minute into her testimony, when asked to name her children and give their ages, then later while testifying about a father-daughter dance Danielle was scheduled to attend with her father a week after she vanished.
Dusek asked the mother about the first of two "girls nights out" at Dad's Cafe in Poway with two girlfriends. Dusek asked if any men were invited to the Jan. 25 get-together at Dad's Cafe. Van dam said no.
"Was there a sex party at your house when you got home?" Dusek asked, hoping to pre-empt an anticipated defense attack on the mother during cross-examination.
"There's never been a sex party at my house," she responded matter-of-factly.
She also described previous contacts with the defendant -- she had said he bought her a drink at Dad's -- including a visit to his house with Danielle and her younger brother to sell Girl Scout cookies.
While the children were playing in his back yard, she said the twice-divorced Westerfield told her he was interested in her friend, Barbara Easton, who had caught his eye at Dad's.
On the second outing to Dad's, Easton walked right up to Westerfield and began talking to him, van Dam told the court.
Brenda denied dancing with the defendant on either occasion.
Earlier in the day, Medical Examiner Brian Blackbourne was asked about the cause and time of Danielle's death.
The girl's body was so decomposed when found by a volunteer searcher that it was impossible to establish a cause of death, Blackbourne had said Wednesday.
Thursday, he estimated her time of death at anywhere from 10 days to six weeks before the body was found Feb. 27.
Blackbourne also said it was possible that air temperature could be a variable in judging when she died. That led defense attorney Steven Feldman to suggest that especially hot days in late February could have accelerated the decomposition process.
In his opening statement Tuesday, Feldman told the jury that Westerfield could not possibly have dumped Danielle's body after Feb. 6, because he was under constant scrutiny by the police and the media.
"Is it your professional opinion (Danielle) could have been alive Feb. 6?" Feldman asked.
"Based on my observations? Yes," Blackbourne said.
"Feb. 17?" Feldman pressed.
"Possibly, yes," Blackbourne answered.
"Depending on the weather conditions, Feb. 22nd?" Feldman asked.
"That's pushing it for what I can accept," Blackbourne said.
He also testified he checked Danielle's body for signs of sexual assault but found none, primarily because of tissue damage from decomposition and animal activity.
Wednesday, the child's father admitted he lied to police about use of marijuana in the garage of his house the night of Feb. 1 -- hours before his daughter turned up missing.
He also told the court that on prior occasions he engaged in sex with both of Brenda's female friends.
A bartender at Dad's Cafe in Poway characterized Westerfield as a "people watcher," but termed a police report on the behavior of Brenda van Dam and two friends inaccurate.
Sean Brown said he was at work as a bar manager on the two nights that have come up in testimony in the case: Jan. 25 and Feb. 1.
It was Feb. 2 that the Sabre Springs 7-year-old was discovered missing.
Westerfield would talk to a regular customer, "hang out" and watch people as they drank and danced, Brown said. The bartender said he never saw the defendant dance or play pool.
Brown said Westerfield would drink 16-ounce rum-and-cokes.
"I believe David had a few drinks," Brown said of Feb. 1. "He was feeling good. He'd taken the edge off. I don't believe he was drunk."
He said the same about Brenda van Dam.
"I don't think she was drunk," Brown testified. "She was in good spirits but was in control of herself. She wasn't slurring."
Under cross-examination by co-defense counsel Robert Boyce, Brown said a police report containing his statements on the behavior of Brenda and her two friends was inaccurate.
Brown testified he warned prosecutor Jeff Dusek about the discrepancy during the lunch hour -- hours before he testified.
The statement from police indicated the women were "flirtatious toward males" and "partying hard."
Brown testified that the women were having fun as girlfriends do. He said he never saw them act inappropriately.
Brown was dismissed as a witness as the court day ended.
By Jeff Dillon
June 6, 2002
SAN DIEGO The lead defense attorney for David Westerfield grilled the mother of Danielle van Dam Thursday about her sexual behavior, marijuana use and parenting in advance of her daughter's kidnapping and murder.
Brenda van Dam testified that she had previously had sex with the two women she accompanied on "girls' nights out" to Dad's Cafe and Steak House on Jan. 25 and Feb. 1 the same two women her husband had said he'd also had sex with on previous occasions.
Defense attorney Steven Feldman pressed van Dam on why she had earlier told prosecutor Jeff Dusek she and her husband had never hosted "sex parties" but admitted they had sex with Denise and Andy Kemal at the van Dam house during an Oct. 31, 2001 Halloween party.
While Brenda became tearful during testimony surrounding Danielle, she appeared irritated when Feldman's questions turned repeatedly toward her sex life, as evidenced by this testy exchange:
Feldman: "Isn't it true that on Halloween evening in the year 2000, you engaged in sex with Denise and Andy and ...Damon?"
Feldman: "So when you told Mr. Dusek that you had never had a sex party at your house, had you forgotten that?"
Brenda: "I don't consider that to be a sex party. "
Feldman: "Was October 2001 the first time you had sex with Denise?"
Brenda: "You need to repeat that question, you have the dates wrong."
Feldman: "OK, I'm sorry. What date was it that was the first time you had sex with Denise?"
Brenda: "I have never."
Feldman: "Have you had sex with Barbara Easton before?"
Feldman: "Isn't it true you told (a detective) that you had in fact engaged in consensual sexual behavior with Denise?"
Brenda: (Pause) "Yes."
Feldman: "And you weren't lying ... were you?"
Feldman: "When was it that you had consensual sexual relations with Denise?"
Brenda: "It was October of 2000."
Feldman hopped back and forth among topics during three hours of cross-examining van Dam, gradually walking her through the events of Friday, Feb. 1, the day before Danielle was discovered missing.
"I'm sorry, I'm switching again," Feldman warned her at one point. "But you'll be happy to know I'm winding down."
Brenda van Dam testified:
After the first of three cranberry and vodka drinks, van Dam went outside with the two women to smoke more of the joint they'd started earlier in the evening. They were accompanied by Rich Brady and Keith Stone, two male friends they had encountered at the bar.
"Had the marijuana you smoked earlier worn off or did you want to get higher?" Feldman asked.
"I guess it had worn off," van Dam said.
Van Dam, the trio's designated driver, also had a shot of tequila.
Brenda van Dam broke down in tears several times during questioning that covered topics such as the length of Danielle's hair, her handful of encounters with the suspect and her discovery of Danielle's disappearance from her bedroom on Feb. 1.
"I have an emergency. My daughter's not in her bed this morning. She's only 7," Brenda van Dam is heard telling the dispatcher in an audiotape of her 911 call to police.
The dispatcher asks for more details, then assures van Dam: "Think positive thoughts and everything will be OK."
Cross-examined by Feldman, van Dam acknowledged that Danielle occasionally walked to other locations in the neighborhood and that Westerfield had parked his motorhome on the street for such long periods of time that she and others considered it an eyesore.
Danielle's hair and fingerprints were found in the motorhome after her disappearance, Dusek said in his opening statement on Tuesday. Feldman has argued that Danielle could have gotten into the motorhome on other occasions.
The outburst came before Feldman was scheduled to resume his cross-examination of Brenda van Dam, mother of murder victim Danielle van Dam.
One of the alternate jurors raised her hand and told the judge, "I'm kind of shaken up after what happened outside." Superior Court Judge William Mudd told the jury that it was done deliberately, but that it should have no reflection on the attorneys for either side or the trial.
"Take a deep breath, sit back and relax," Mudd said before allowing the trial to resume.
The heckler, an unidentified woman, was escorted from the building by authorities.
During the afternoon break a group of jurors was overheard in the hallway discussing the incident. One of them said "it scared me."
Dr. Brian Blackbourne testified that he estimated Danielle had been dead for at least 10 days and potentially up to six weeks before her body was found.
"Just looking at the body, it was clear to me that she had been there for a considerable period of time," Blackbourne said, based on the degree of mummification and putrefaction of the body found off Dehesa Road on Feb. 27. Danielle disappeared Feb. 1.
But Feldman questioned Blackbourne's minimum 10-day estimate because the medical examiner had not checked weather reports to find out whether warm weather could have accelerated the decomposition process.
"To say that she was dead on the 17th of February, you would have to speculate, wouldn't you?" Feldman asked.
"Well, I have evidence on the body, so that's not really speculation," Blackbourne replied.
Feldman suggested more evidence would show Danielle hadn't been dead as long as Blackbourne had estimated, proving his client's innocence by showing that she had been killed and her body dumped in Dehesa while Westerfield was under surveillance by police.
Blackbourne was testifying on the third day of the murder trial of David Westerfield, the 50-year-old neighbor accused of kidnapping and killing Danielle.
He said he ruled that the manner of her death was a homicide as opposed to a suicide or natural causes based on the position of her body, how far it was away from her home and the fact that searchers had been looking for her for three weeks.
Under cross-examination by Feldman, Blackbourne said that he couldn't find any signs of traumatic injuries.
Blackbourne also testified Thursday that decomposition prevented him from determining whether or not Danielle had been sexually assaulted before her death.
But he said both Friday nights were busy and he couldn't keep track of all the patrons, how sober they were or when they left.
Brown did refute a police report quoting him as saying he had seen van Dam and her female friends "partying hard" and flirting with men in the bar.
"That's not exactly what I said," Brown testified. "The way I saw it was Brenda and her girlfriends were out there having a good time as girlfriends do. I think of partying hard as having beer shot after beer shot after beer shot. They were there to have a good time."
Cross-examined by defense attorney Robert Boyce, Brown admitted he couldn't say whether the women had been "partying hard" after they moved from the bar area to the dance floor.
Brown testified that Westerfield was something of a regular visitor to the bar and sat in the same seat next to another regular customer named Gary Harvey. Brown said Westerfield always ordered a 16-ounce glass of Baccardi Rum and Coke, rarely mingled with the crowd and was a people watcher.
Following is the line of questioning by Dusek about Westerfield:
Dusek: "What's the basis for that opinion or that assessment?"
Brown: "Well, maybe if there's a conversation between Gary and him and they stopped or hesitated, they would turn around and watch the people in the bar and maybe not talk for a while and observe what's going on. That's what I would consider a people watcher, so I would say he's a people watcher."
Dusek: "Did you ever see him play pool?"
Dusek: "Did you ever see him dance?"
Dusek: "What would he do?"
Brown: "He would just hang out with Gary, that's all I can say."
Brenda van Dam said nothing else was taken the night Danielle was abducted.I'm at a loss here. How am I supposed to use this article as an opportunity to bash the Bush administration for not being conservative enough?
I have always wondered why neither Brenda nor Damon showed any anger about the man that LE was sure did it, practically from the beginning.
By the same token, I found it equally weird that now she is suddenly shooting darts across the room at the man.
It appears that the prosecution told Damon to lose the facial hair and Brenda to act like a "normal" mom.
It didn't work, she came across as a bi-sexual swinging pervert, dope head, drunkard. Westerfield's starting to look like a sober, heterosexual pervert....a considerable improvement.
POSTED: 12:05 p.m. PDT June 6, 2002
UPDATED: 4:46 p.m. PDT June 6, 2002
Brenda van Dam began her testimony on an emotional note under friendly questioning from prosecutor Jeff Dusek. Early on, she broke down in tears as the Dusek asked her questions about her children and her home. Dusek asked her about visiting the defendant, David Westerfield, with Danielle and one of her sons to sell Girl Scout cookies. She also recounted two outings to a local restaurant bar when she interacted with Westerfield. And she admitted smoking marijuana the day of her daughter's disappearance.The behavior of the Danielle's parents has come under intense scrutiny during the trial. Yesterday, Danielle's father Damon van Dam admitted to having sex with other women, sometimes with his wife in the room.
The questions became much more probing when Westerfield's attorney, Steven Feldman, began questioning the 39-year-old mother. Under Feldman's cross-examination, van Dam testified about her relationships to the two men and two women she went out with on the night before Danielle was discovered missing. During the questioning, van Dam acknowledged that she had had sexual relations with the two women in the past, though not on the night in question.
Feldman attempted to question her about what he termed "sex parties," but Judge William Mudd stopped van Dam from answering broad questions about her sex life, ruling that the questions were irrelevant to the case.
Earlier in the day, San Diego County Medical Examiner Brian Blackbourne testified. He said that he was not able to determine exactly when Danielle died or how she was killed. On cross-examination by Westerfield's attorney, Steven Feldman, Blackbourne added that he found now evidence on the body of a sexual attack. But he said that could have been because of the state of the body, which had been damaged by animals and was in an advanced stage of decomposition.
Under questioning from Feldman, Blackbourne said that Danielle could have been alive as late as Feb. 17, more than two weeks after she was reported missing. The uncertainty over the time of death helps Westerfield's case. Feldman has argued that his client was under police surveillance and media scrutiny starting on Feb. 4, when he returned from a weekend trip to the beach and the desert. It would have been impossible for him to dump the body after that date, according to Feldman.
The trial is expected to continue until at least mid-July. You can see gavel-to-gavel coverage of the proceeding in the NBC 7/39 FeedRoom.
Yep.......it was hard to even imagine her as a mother while she was answering the questions today.
That's why I have been upset from day one that LE didn't think these folks and their circle of friends seemed much more the type to have harmed the child. Good grief......is there anything or anyone with which they wouldn't have sex?
1. The whole neighborhood knew these people were swingers and Brenda was bi.
2. Yes, I have a large collection of nude pictures of adult woman. I'm a single, heterosexual male. Any pictures of kids in there came from downloading collections from others. I'm not into kids.
3. Brenda did me once or twice in the RV just for fun, that's why the VD dna is in there.
4. I was interested in Barbara, but not that interested, I don't have to beg.
5. I know my driving the RV all over that weekend looked weird, but it's really not, I was "campground hopping" looking for some of the hot women, I'd found there before. I was going places where there are lots of people. I didn't know anyone was looking for me.
6. I didn't kill Danielle, or dump her body and I don't know who did.
But ... Mom cried!
And as we all know from Baba Wawa and The View, the presence of tears means we've arrived at the Truth. Right? < /sarcasm >
The wench looks like she's been rode hard and put away wet.
(no double-entendre intended) <|:)~
That's an understatement; how old is she supposed to be??? She looks over 50 at least and not at all the motherly type! YUK, who'd want to swing with her anyway?
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