Skip to comments.Plea deal 'minutes away' when body found
Posted on 09/17/2002 5:28:16 AM PDT by Bug
Plea deal 'minutes away' when body found
By J. Harry Jones
September 17, 2002
Minutes before Danielle van Dam's remains were found Feb. 27, David Westerfield's lawyers were brokering a deal with prosecutors:
He would tell police where he dumped the 7-year-old girl's body; they would not seek the death penalty.
Law enforcement sources told The San Diego Union-Tribune yesterday defense lawyers Steven Feldman and Robert Boyce were negotiating for a life sentence for the 50-year-old design engineer, a neighbor of the van Dams in Sabre Springs.
The deal they were discussing would have allowed Westerfield to plead guilty to murder and be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, said the officials, who spoke on condition they not be identified.
Prosecutors were seriously considering the bargain when Danielle's body was discovered off Dehesa Road that afternoon, nearly four weeks after she disappeared from her bedroom.
"The deal was just minutes away," one of the sources said.
It was aborted, but details were confirmed yesterday soon after a San Diego Superior Court jury recommended the death penalty for Westerfield.
The officials outlined this chronology:
Feldman and Boyce were at the downtown San Diego jail discussing the final arrangements with Westerfield when volunteer searchers found Danielle's remains beneath trees along Dehesa Road east of El Cajon.
When the lawyers left to meet with prosecutors, they noticed members of the news media gathering in the street and asked what was happening.
After being told a body had been found, they went directly to the nearby Hall of Justice and met with prosecutors. The defense lawyers were handed a copy of a Thomas Guide map of the Dehesa area on which a circle had been drawn indicating the location of the body.
Feldman and Boyce took the map back to Westerfield and later telephoned to say they no longer "had anything to discuss regarding a plea bargain."
Neither Feldman nor Boyce could be reached for comment last night.
Danielle was reported missing from her home the morning of Feb. 2, and Westerfield, who lived two doors away, quickly became the primary suspect. He was watched closely by police for weeks as authorities and volunteers searched from the Sabre Springs neighborhood to the Imperial County desert.
After DNA results linked Westerfield to the crime, he was arrested Feb. 22 and charged with kidnapping and burglary.
Three days later, even though Danielle's body had not been found, District Attorney Paul Pfingst announced murder and kidnapping charges would be filed that could carry the death penalty.
Many law enforcement officials feared Danielle's body might never be found. Then, on Feb. 27, volunteer searchers combing the Dehesa area, far from where police had focused, found Danielle's badly decomposed remains.
At that point, the official sources said yesterday, any opportunity Westerfield and his lawyers had to win a plea bargain evaporated.
Copyright 2002 Union-Tribune Publishing Co.
They will dismiss this too of course. Probably along the lines of "Of course he was looking for a plea bargain, the press and prosecutor was out to lynch an innocent man so that the public didn't find out that the entire police force was having sex with the Van Dam's".
Westerfield at that moment, was, needless to say, SOL.
But...but this can't be! She played in his motorhome! (BLAHBLAHBLAH...)
If he wasn't then, he sho' is now!
Time for a math check ;)
Minutes before Danielle van Dam's remains were found Feb. 27, David Westerfield's lawyers were brokering a deal with prosecutors: He would tell police where he dumped the 7-year-old girl's body; they would not seek the death penalty. ......... The deal they were discussing would have allowed Westerfield to plead guilty to murder and be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, said the officials, who spoke on condition they not be identified. Prosecutors were seriously considering the bargain ....."The deal was just minutes away," one of the sources said.
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