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DNA Cited in Westerfield Trial

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The prosecution closed its case against David Westerfield on Tuesday by presenting DNA evidence it suggests ties the murder defendant to 7-year-old Danielle van Dam.

Westerfield’s attorney opened his defense with testimony from three neighbors who said the accused killer acted normally in the days around the girl’s disappearance.

Prosecutors have alleged that their case is cemented by several pieces of physical evidence and on Tuesday they presented the final one: A DNA expert testified that dog hair found in Westerfield’s home is similar to the hair of the dog owned by the Van Dam family.

Prosecutors allege that the dog’s hair was clinging to Danielle’s pajamas when Westerfield kidnapped her from her bedroom and took her to his house two doors away and later to his recreational vehicle.

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Joy Halverson of the QuestGen Forensics laboratory in Davis said the hair found in Westerfield’s RV, on a comforter, and in a trash can in Westerfield’s garage matched that of the Van Dams’ Weimaraner, Layla.

But under cross-examination by defense attorney Steve Feldman, Halverson, a veterinarian, said the hair could have come from a dog of the same breed.

Other DNA experts previously testified that the girl’s hair, blood and fingerprints were found in Westerfield’s home and RV.

The defense has attempted to explain that evidence by suggesting Danielle may have left the hair or even blood during a previous visit to Westerfield’s home.

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Danielle disappeared Feb. 2. Her nude and decomposing body was found in a rural area of the county, 40 miles from the Van Dam neighborhood, on Feb. 27.

Halverson was the final prosecution witness as Deputy Dist. Atty. Jeff Dusek, after 15 days of testimony, finished the state’s case.

Feldman called three neighbors as the opening defense witnesses. They testified, in effect, that Westerfield did not appear to act strangely the day Danielle disappeared.

Prosecutors have alleged that Westerfield was so unnerved by what he had done that he began a circuitous trip in his RV from the Silver Strand beach in Coronado to the sand dunes of Imperial Valley.

The witnesses also gave testimony that could help explain Westerfield’s other actions at the time of the crime.

Neighbor Mark Roehr testified that he once found Westerfield’s RV unlocked. Feldman has suggested that Danielle may have gotten into the vehicle without her parents’ knowledge while playing in the neighborhood.

Roehr and other neighbors also testified that it was not unusual for Westerfield to thoroughly clean his RV after going to the desert.

Dusek has said that Westerfield cleaned the vehicle to wash away evidence.

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Westerfield, 50, is accused of kidnapping, murder and possession of child pornography. He faces a possible death penalty if convicted.


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