Missing Girl's Mother Pleads For Help

Feb. 6, 2002 -- The mother of a missing San Diego girl is urging the public to "get the word out" and help find the 7-year-old, who was apparently snatched from her bed last Friday.

Police questioned a neighbor of the family, but said they have few clues in the disappearance of Danielle van Dam.

Police say the little girl was last seen around 9 p.m. on Friday, when her father put her to bed. Danielle was only discovered to be missing the next morning, when a friend came to visit, and Danielle's parents found her room was empty.

With her husband by her side Wednesday, Danielle's mother asked the public not to forget her daughter.

"We know there has been a lot of attention in the last 24 hours regarding the progress of the police investigation," Brenda van Dam said. "But we are pleading with the public to remember, while there may be progress, Danielle is still not home with her family. Please, please continue to get the word out about our little girl nationwide."

Neighbor Questioned

The Millennium Children's Fund, a private children's advocacy group, announced a $10,00 reward for information leading to Danielle's whereabouts Wednesday.

Brenda van Dam told police she came home late Friday night after spending the evening with some friends. She said she checked to make sure the doors to the rooms of her daughter and two young sons were closed, then returned to the living room of the two-story house, where she, some of the friends and her husband sat and talked for an hour.

Danielle's father, Damon van Dam, has said he woke up at around 1:30 Saturday morning to let the dog out, and noticed the back door was open. He closed it and went back to bed.

A neighbor of the van Dams who says he was out with Mrs. van Dam and her friends Friday night told reporters police had questioned him.

David Westerfield, who lives two houses away from the van Dam home, said he told police he had seen Brenda van Dam with her girlfriends at a nearby bar that evening, and had danced and talked with her and her friends.

"They were having a good time, just playing pool with people and joking around," he said, adding that he'd danced with Mrs. van Dam before leaving around 10:30 p.m.

Westerfield said he was cooperating with authorities and that police had searched his home, even going through it with sniffer dogs. He said they removed several items for examination. Police impounded his two vehicles and searched another house, where Westerfield said he had spent the weekend.

Westerfield has not been declared a suspect. San Diego police have stressed that he has not been charged with a crime and that he is only one of several people they want to question.

Police do not consider the parents suspects in Danielle's disappearance, though no one has been completely ruled out, said San Diego police Lt. Jim Collins, the lead investigator on the case.

Brenda van Dam said that she and Damon had taken lie detector tests regarding their version of the weekend's events.

Hotline and Reward Set Up

Police have searched the area with helicopters and sniffer dogs, scouring canyons around the Sabre Springs neighborhood where the van Dams live.

Investigators questioned registered sex offenders in the area. The FBI was offering assistance but was not actively investigating because there was no evidence Danielle had left California, spokeswoman Jan Caldwell said.

Danielle is 4 feet tall, weighs 58 pounds, and has blue eyes and blond hair. She was wearing blue pajamas with a flower pattern before she disappeared.

The Millennium Children's Fund said it hoped the reward would lead to a break in the case.

"We believe that this $10,000 reward that came from individual Americans across the country will help this little girl come home," said spokesman Douglas Pierce.

Anyone with information on Danielle's disappearance should call police at (619) 531-2000 or visit the Web site DanielleMissing.com. The family also has set up a hot line for tips at (888) 664-6664.

ABCNEWS affiliate KGTV contributed to this report.

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