Police Baffled by 7-Year-Old's Disappearance

S A N   D I E G O, Feb. 4, 2002 -- The last time 7-year-old Danielle van Dam's family saw her was when her father tucked her in to bed Friday night. Three days later, the girl is still missing without a trace.

Police said Damon van Dam put his daughter to bed at approximately 10 p.m.

When the girl's mother returned home early Saturday morning, she noticed the back gate and the side door to the home were both open, but Danielle was not discovered missing until the family awoke at approximately 9:30 a.m. Saturday.

"Daddy tucks you in at night, kisses you on the forehead and the next morning — bam. It is sick," said Paula Call, one of the van Dams' neighbors in the growing bedroom community of Sabre Springs.

Police have since declared the home a crime scene, but officers said there was no sign of forced entry and there were few clues to help them discover what might have happened to her.

The indications, though, are that Danielle was taken by someone, police said.

"She's not the kind of girl who would have walked away from home," San Diego Police Department spokesman Dave Cohen said.

One of her school classmates agreed.

"It's kind of sad," Danielle's schoolmate Brett Johnson said. "I know she wouldn't wander off. So it had to be someone else."

The FBI has been working with the San Diego police to help find the girl, though the case is still considered a missing persons investigation, Cohen said.

‘Everyone Feels Insecure’

Family, friends and neighbors, have been passing out fliers and searching the community themselves for any trace of the girl. About 200 people turned out Sunday night for a candlelight vigil, hoping to help the family know that their neighbors care.

"It's living hell if you can say it … it's just … there's nothing you can do, say, give, that will make that hole go away in their heart," Call said.

With its manicured lawns and young families in new homes, Sabre Springs gave residents a strong sense of security — until word of Danielle's disappearance.

"I think everyone feels insecure and wants to stick closer to home with their kids," said Charmane Smith, a neighbor of the van Dams.

Damon van Dam, who works at Qualcomm, and his wife, Brenda, who is active as a volunteer with the school and other neighborhood activities, were said to be very involved with their children. They have not spoken to the media, remaining in their home with their two sons, Derrick and Dylan.

ABCNEWS.com's Dean Schabner and ABCNEWS affiliate KGTV contributed to this report.

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