Van Dam's Mom Recalls Meeting Suspect

S A N  D I E G O, March 15, 2002 -- After three days of testimony, a judge ordereda man accused of killing a 7-year-old girl whose body was foundalong a rural road last month to stand trial.

The girl's mother, Brenda van Dam held back tears as shetestified Thursday at a preliminary hearing for David Westerfield,50, who has been charged with kidnapping, murder and possession ofchild pornography. He has pleaded innocent.

"I have reasonable cause to believe that Mr. Westerfield isguilty," Judge H. Ronald Domnitz said in issuing his decision.

Under cross-examination by the defense, van Dam, 39, at timesgrew frustrated and repeatedly said she couldn't recall detailsabout events surrounding her daughter's disappearance from thefamily's home Feb. 1.

"I've been through a lot," she said.

Van Dam recalled meeting Westerfield when she and her daughter,Danielle, went to his home in their north San Diego neighborhood tosell Girl Scout cookies last year.

She testified that she had little contact with thetwice-divorced engineer until earlier this year when she ran intohim at a local bar while she was out with two girlfriends.

Days later, she went to Westerfield's home with Danielle and oneof her sons to again sell cookies, she said. As the childrenexplored the home, van Dam said she chatted with Westerfield. He said he often hosted "adult parties" and barbecues andinvited van Dam and her husband.

She said she thought it odd Westerfield mentioned "adultparties."

"I didn't know what he meant by that," she testified.

Under cross-examination by the defense, van Dam, 39, at timesgrew frustrated and repeatedly said she couldn't recall detailsabout events surrounding her daughter's disappearance. "I've been through a lot," she said.

Van Dam said she and her two girlfriends met on Feb. 1 andshared a marijuana cigarette in van Dam's garage before going out.

The girl's father, Damon van Dam, 37, testified he also smokedmarijuana with the women in the garage, but went back inside toplay video games with their sons while Danielle read a book.

Under cross-examination, he acknowledged that he did not tellpolice about the marijuana in the initial interviews afterDanielle's disappearance.

The three women returned to the bar where she had seenWesterfield the weekend before. She said they saw Westerfieldagain, he bought drinks for them and later watched them play pool.

At one point, van Dam said she and her friends went to her truckin the parking lot to smoke the rest of their marijuana cigarette.

The three returned to van Dam's home, meeting up with two malefriends there. She noticed that a light on the home's alarm panelindicated a door was open; they found a side door on the garageajar.

After eating pizza, the friends left and Brenda and her husband,Damon, locked up the house and went to bed about 2:30 a.m. withoutchecking on the children.

Later that night, Damon van Dam awoke to go to the bathroom andfound that a sliding glass door at the rear of the house was open."I assumed in my state of drowsiness that one of the other peoplein the house had left it open," he said.

They discovered Danielle was missing after getting up.

Van Dam said she was "frantic" and the couple searchedthroughout the house, and the Jacuzzi in back, "places you wouldnever want to look."Copyright 2002 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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