S A N D I E G O, Sept. 18, 2002 -- Danielle van Dam's mother still cries on her daughter's frilly bed, where the 7-year-old spent her last moments feeling safe before she was kidnapped in the night.
Brenda and Damon van Dam said they hadn't changed a thing in the little girl's room since they discovered she was missing on the morning on Feb. 2.
In an interview at their home, scheduled to be broadcast on ABCNEWS' Primetime Thursday, the van Dams told Charlie Gibson they worked hard to keep the memory of Danielle alive for themselves and their two boys.
‘Still Her Room’
"We kept all the furniture," said Brenda van Dam, from the room where her little girl was taken and later killed by their neighbor David Westerfield. "This is still her room. This is where we come for comfort. Plenty of nights I cried on this bed."
Danielle had been missing for nearly a month before her nude, decomposing body was found off a road near an unincorporated town east of San Diego. Investigators soon focused on Westerfield, a 50-year-old engineer who lived two doors down from the van Dam family in suburban San Diego.
Brenda van Dam said she had never realized, when Danielle was alive, that anyone standing across the street from the house would be able to see into the little girl's room.
"This shade was always left open, in the open position, so that she could get sunlight in the morning and wake up to the sunlight," she said. "And I didn't know, until after the fact, that if you're standing right across the street and look up into her room, all you see is pink and purple and you saw her canopy — that isn't up right now — and you could definitely tell that it was a girl's bedroom."
Making Sure No Other Child Is Hurt
The van Dams were in the courtroom on Aug. 21 as the jury delivered its verdict against Westerfield, convicting him of kidnapping, murder and possession of child pornography. On Monday, a jury recommended he be sentenced to death.
Sentencing is scheduled for Nov. 22. The judge can either follow the jury's recommendation or sentence him to life in prison without hope of parole.
The van Dams say they are pleased to see their painful legal battle coming to an end. Brenda van Dam said that before the jury made its sentencing recommendation, she and her husband had decided they could accept it if Westerfield was spared the death penalty — as long as he would never be able to prey on other youngsters.
"I was relieved that that part of it was over and I was ready to accept either verdict because what mattered to both of us most is that he could not hurt another innocent child," Brenda van Dam said.