Police initially became suspicious of David Westerfield because he appeared nervous and “overly cooperative” during routine questioning, a San Diego detective testified Tuesday at Westerfield’s trial for the kidnapping and murder of 7-year-old Danielle van Dam.
Westerfield also provoked suspicion when he volunteered to a detective: “I could have sworn she had a baby-sitter. I didn’t know her husband was home with the kids.” Det. Johnny Keene testified: “I hadn’t asked him about that.”
Prosecutors allege that Westerfield sneaked into the Van Dam home about midnight Feb. 1 and kidnapped the child from her bedroom while her father, Damon, slept in an adjacent room. Westerfield earlier had been at a neighborhood bar, where his advances to the girl’s mother, Brenda van Dam, and her friends were spurned, witnesses had testified.
Defense attorney Steven Feldman suggested that the detectives searched Westerfield’s home illegally. But Keene and fellow San Diego police Det. Maura Parga said Westerfield signed a consent form allowing the search.
Westerfield was arrested Feb. 22, three weeks after Danielle’s disappearance. Prosecutors contend that Danielle’s blood, hair and fingerprints were found in Westerfield’s recreational vehicle and home.
Feldman asserts that the blood, hair and fingerprints may have been left by Danielle when she and her mother came to Westerfield’s home to sell Girl Scout cookies the week she disappeared.
Keene testified that Westerfield, in his first interview with police, said Danielle had run upstairs in his home during the Girl Scout sales visit. Brenda van Dam had testified that Danielle remained downstairs and in the backyard.
Keene testified that when he interviewed Westerfield two days after Danielle disappeared, the 50-year-old design engineer appeared nervous, sweated profusely although the day was cool and was suspiciously solicitous.
“As we were searching his residence, he pointed out areas that we might walk past and miss and he felt we should look at,” Keene said.
For the first time, Brenda and Damon van Dam were allowed to sit in the courtroom audience. Superior Court Judge William Mudd had ruled that until they finished their testimony, they could not attend the trial.