Sentencing in Van Dam Murder, Kidnapping Delayed Until Jan. 3

Times Staff Writer

The sentencing of David Westerfield for the kidnapping and murder of Danielle van Dam was delayed Friday, but the judge overseeing the case scoffed at a defense request regarding a magazine story.

Defense attorney Steven Feldman had asked Superior Court Judge William Mudd to force the writer of a story in San Diego magazine to disclose the source of an anonymous quote indicating that police believe the 7-year-old may have been killed in her bedroom, not after being kidnapped.

Mudd said that the motion was one of the easiest to reject he has ever encountered. “It appears to me to be nothing more than the speculative belief of some unnamed police source,” Mudd said of the quote.


Still, Mudd delayed the sentencing until Jan. 3 because Feldman has not filed a motion to appeal the jury’s death sentence, which the defense is required to do in California. Mudd will decide whether to sentence the 50-year-old design engineer to death or life in prison without parole.

“I’m really let down by the decision” to delay the sentencing, said Brenda van Dam, Danielle’s mother. “We wanted to have this part behind us for the holidays.... It’s a game to [Feldman].”

Los Angeles attorney Gloria Allred, now representing the Van Dam family, said the girl’s parents “plan to devote a significant portion of their lives to protecting other children from predators.”

Allred said she will advise the Van Dams about the possibility of a lawsuit against Westerfield, who lived two doors away from the Van Dams in the upscale Sabre Springs neighborhood.

Danielle was abducted from her bedroom Feb. 1. Her nude and decomposing body was found four weeks later in a rural area, a week after Westerfield had been arrested on the strength of blood, fiber and fingerprint evidence.

Westerfield did not testify during the high-profile trial, and prosecutors never pinpointed when or where they thought Westerfield killed Danielle.

In a motion, Feldman argued that if Danielle were killed in her bedroom, Westerfield would not be guilty of kidnapping. Murder committed during a kidnapping is considered a special circumstance that can bring the death penalty.

But Mudd noted that even if she were killed in her bedroom, Westerfield would be guilty of murdering her during a residential burglary, also considered a special circumstance.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Jeff Dusek mocked the bedroom theory. “It’s almost as likely she was killed in the parlor with the candlestick by Col. Mustard,” Dusek said, a reference to the board game Clue.