Van Dam Suspect Raised Suspicions Early in Case
Documents filed Thursday in the case against David Westerfield reveal that a police lie-detector specialist interviewed him two days after 7-year-old Danielle van Dam disappeared and concluded he was lying when he denied being involved.
Paul Redden, who has administered polygraph tests for two decades, was “convinced the defendant was deceptive when he stated he was not in any way responsible for Danielle’s disappearance,” according to the documents.
Police have said DNA evidence links Westerfield to the crime but have declined to say publicly whether he was given a lie-detector test.
Key words and sections in the documents filed by prosecutors are blacked out, so that it is impossible to tell conclusively from the papers whether Westerfield took a polygraph test.
But they also indicate he signed a consent form before his interview with Redden and that the interview was tape-recorded, both standard procedures during polygraph tests but not during routine police interviews.
Though lie-detector tests are not admissible in court, police often use them to pressure or rule out suspects. Danielle van Dam’s mother and father took and passed lie-detector tests, police have said.
First interviewed on Feb. 4, Westerfield, 50, a self-employed engineer and a neighbor of the Van Dams, was arrested Feb. 22. Danielle’s nude body was found in a rural area of the county Feb. 27. Westerfield is charged with kidnapping and murder.
Within hours of Redden’s interview, police got a warrant to search Westerfield’s home more thoroughly than they had in a preliminary search.
Asked to show police where he had spent the two days after Danielle disappeared, Westerfield took them on a 14-hour journey from his home in San Diego to a desert camping area of Imperial County and to a parking lot at Silver Strand beach near Coronado.
The new information about the Redden interview came in documents filed by prosecutors in opposition to motions filed by Westerfield’s attorneys.
The defense attorneys want Superior Court Judge William Mudd to order prosecutors to disclose the personnel files of 13 officers involved in the investigation, particularly any allegations that they have been untruthful, used coercive or brutal tactics in other cases, or violated the rights of suspects during interviews.
Westerfield’s attorneys claim their client was coerced by repeated questioning and false statements by police into making false but incriminating statements. Mudd has set a hearing for next month on the motions.
Westerfield lived two houses from the Van Dam family in the Sabre Springs neighborhood. His home has since been deeded to his attorneys and put up for sale.