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Court TV

Jurors hear Westerfield's alibi on police tape

By Harriet Ryan
Court TV

SAN DIEGO, California -- David Westerfield told investigators he was traveling alone in his recreational vehicle the weekend 7-year-old Danielle van Dam disappeared, but at least once he used the word "we" as he described his travels to police.

Jurors in Westerfield's capital murder trial heard the switch from singular to plural Wednesday morning in an audio tape of a police interview conducted February 4, just two days after someone snatched the girl from her bedroom.

"This little place we were, we were at was just a small turn-off type place," Westerfield is heard telling San Diego Police Department interrogation specialist Paul Redden about a desert area known as Borrego.

Before prosecutor Jeff Dusek played the tape Redden prepped jurors to listen for two mentions of "we" as Westerfield discusses an area known as Superstition Mountain, but only the reference to Borrego was audible.

Although the jury did not hear about Redden's assessment of the interview, court papers that have since been sealed, prosecutors said Redden was "convinced the defendant was deceptive when he stated he was not in any way responsible for Danielle's disappearance" after interviewing him February 4.

The 41-minute tape was a heavily redacted version of Redden's interview with Westerfield. Much of the discussion between the men concerned Westerfield's meandering travels that weekend, an odyssey that took him from the ocean to the desert and back to the ocean, which raised police suspicions.

"This whole story sounds weird to everybody else, but it makes perfect sense to me," Westerfield interjected as he recounted the dozen legs of his journey.

When Redden asked him to speculate about what happened to Danielle, the 50-year-old engineer said that perhaps she had simply walked away from her home to play with friends.

He acknowledged that the second-grader, her mother and brother had sold him Girl Scout cookies the previous week, but claimed not to be sure what she looked like.

"If you brought her in right now, I wouldn't be able to tell her [apart] from 10 kids," said Westerfield.

Westerfield was questioned by police on and off for several days. Before the trial, his lawyers argued the interviews became coercive and unfair and should be suppressed, and Judge William Mudd ruled that jurors will only hear about statements Westerfield made before 11:30 p.m. February 4.

Prosecutors have suggested that Westerfield cleaned his SUV, RV and house of potential evidence. In the taped interview, he acknowledged that after police detectives initially interviewed him, he returned to his RV with cleaning supplies and a vacuum cleaner.

Redden pressed Westerfield about his interactions with Brenda van Dam at a neighborhood bar the night Danielle disappeared. Westerfield recalled talking to van Dam and dancing with one of her friends.

"Were you hitting on [Brenda] at all?" Redden asked.

"No, she's not my type," said Westerfield, noting that he was attracted to tall, thin women and van Dam was "kind of heavyset."

He first told Redden he left the bar at 10:30 p.m. but later said he was drunk on beer, rum and cokes, and "a shot of something."

"I don't remember getting home. That's how bad it was," he said.

For the second day, Brenda and Damon van Dam watched the trial from the gallery. Previously, they were barred from being spectators because witnesses were testifying about the couple's activities and statements.

A woman who lives in the house behind Westerfield's testified later Wednesday morning that she noticed Westerfield's house was "locked down" at 2 a.m. on February 2.

"All the blinds were shut in a very uniform manner even on the back door," said Hoeffs, a police dispatcher. "I remember thinking, 'That's weird. Why is everything shut down like that?'"

Prosecutor Dusek continued to try to nail down a time line of Westerfield's activities that weekend with the testimony of an 11-year-old girl identified in court as "Holly." Westerfield stores his recreational vehicle at her grandfather's house, where she was staying February 2. She said that, as she walked up her grandparent's drive in her pajamas to retrieve the newspaper, she noticed Westerfield by his RV.

"He waved and I waved," said the sixth grader, who with her long blond hair and toothy smile bore a striking resemblance to Danielle van Dam.

Holly said she thought she got the newspaper at 8:00 a.m. and that Westerfield left shortly afterward, but her grandfather, Keith Sherman, followed her to the stand and estimated the time at 9:30.




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