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Westerfield Acted ‘Creepy,’ Witness Says

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A female friend of Brenda and Damon van Dam testified Monday that the man accused of killing the couple’s daughter was acting “creepy” at a neighborhood bar in the hours before the girl disappeared from their home.

Denise Kemal, 28, a flight attendant, said that defendant David Westerfield bought drinks for her, Brenda van Dam and Barbara Easton soon after they arrived at Dad’s Cafe and Steakhouse on the night of Feb. 1. The women were there for a “girls’ night out” of drinking, dancing and smoking marijuana.

“Women don’t buy their own drinks here,” Kemal quoted Westerfield as saying, when he first approached the women.

Sending an angry glare toward Westerfield, Kemal said he later stared at the three women as they danced and played pool with other men.

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“He was very quiet and weird,” Kemal said in a soft voice. “He was creepy. He didn’t say anything at all.”

After an objection from defense attorney Steven Feldman, Superior Court Judge William Mudd told the jury to disregard Kemal’s statement.

But on the next question from Deputy Dist. Atty. Jeff Dusek, Kemal gave a similar answer when asked about Westerfield: “I thought to myself, ‘Wow, that’s creepy. Just standing there and watching.’ ” This time, Feldman did not object.

Westerfield, 50, a self-employed design engineer, is accused of kidnapping and murdering Danielle van Dam, whose nude and decomposing body was found Feb. 27 in a rural area. He could face the death penalty if convicted.

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Prosecutors allege that Westerfield left the bar, sneaked into the Van Dam home and kidnapped Danielle from her bedroom while her father slept in an adjacent room. Before his arrest, Westerfield lived two doors away from the Van Dams in the upscale Sabre Springs neighborhood.

Testimony from Kemal and Brenda van Dam indicated that, while Westerfield was interested in getting to know the women, other men at the bar were more successful in striking up a conversation.

Kemal testified that she, Brenda van Dam and Easton had smoked marijuana at the Van Dam home before they left for the bar-restaurant and later took a break from dancing to smoke more marijuana while sitting in a truck, listening to music and singing.

Shortly after 2 a.m., the three women returned to the Van Dam home, Kemal said. Brenda van Dam noticed that the red light was lit on the family’s burglary alarm, indicating an open door in the home, Kemal said.

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Kemal said she and Brenda van Dam searched the home and found an outside door in the garage was “wide open.”

Kemal, her confident demeanor shaken momentarily, said she had opened that door several hours earlier when the three women were smoking marijuana.

Authorities believe that Westerfield may have gained access to the home through that door. The child was found missing about 9 a.m. Feb. 2.

The testimony, guided by prosecutor Dusek, is meant to show that Westerfield had been spurned by Van Dam and her friends in the hours before he allegedly committed the crime. Dusek sought to show that Westerfield had left the bar at least two hours before the women.

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Garry Harvey, a friend of Westerfield’s, testified that Westerfield left between 11 p.m. and midnight.

Feldman, in an effort to undermine the credibility of Kemal, asked her why she had not told police that she previously had a sexual relationship with the Van Dams. Kemal replied that her sexual encounter was with Damon, not Brenda.

And she rejected Feldman’s suggestion that the encounter, which occurred after a Halloween party at the Van Dam home, could be described as “risque.”

“It was more of a swap,” said Kemal, explaining that she had sex with Damon, while her then-husband had sex with Brenda.

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She added that she did not tell police investigating Danielle’s disappearance about the sexual relationship in October 2000 because “going so far back I didn’t think it pertained.”

For the first time during the five days of trial, Westerfield deviated from a stoic demeanor. He smiled broadly as Yvette Wetly, a bartender at another suburban bar, pointed him out as a former patron.


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