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Man to face murder charge in missing girl case

David Westerfield, 49, will face murder and kidnapping charges in the disappearance of 7-year-old girl Danielle van Dam, prosecutors say.  

SAN DIEGO, California (CNN) -- The man accused of kidnapping 7-year-old Danielle van Dam will be charged with murder, even though the girl's body has not been found, San Diego prosecutors said Monday.

David Westerfield, 49, will be arraigned Tuesday on murder and kidnapping charges, prosecutors said.

Danielle was last seen February 1 when her father put her to bed. But San Diego District Attorney Paul Pfingst said Monday he now believes she is dead.

"I must conclude that Danielle van Dam is no longer living and was killed by her abductor," Pfingst said. He said he had spoken to Danielle's parents before making the decision.

Police in the U.S. say they are charging the neighbor of a missing California girl with murder in addition to kidnapping. CNN's Thelma Gutierrez reports (February 26)

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The murder charge with special circumstances is punishable by the death penalty or life in prison.

Westerfield, a divorced, self-employed engineer with two children, was taken into custody Friday shortly after authorities said that DNA test results showed Danielle's blood on an article of his clothing and in his motor home and other DNA evidence on an article of Danielle's clothing in her bedroom.

In recent days, police had kept Westerfield under 24-hour surveillance. He was identified early in the investigation as a potential suspect and has cooperated with police.

Westerfield has been held without bail in the San Diego County Jail.

San Diego Police Chief David Bejarano  

Westerfield's attorney, Steven Feldman, said previously he will likely ask a judge to impose a gag order in the case.

Danielle was reported missing from her family's San Diego home February 2 after her mother went to wake her in her second-floor bedroom and discovered she was missing.

Police said that Westerfield came under scrutiny because he left for a weekend in the desert 80 miles east of San Diego on the day Danielle was reported missing.

Dan Conklin, a tow truck operator from Glamis, California, said that he was called to tow Westerfield's motor home after it got stuck in sand that weekend not far from the Mexican border.

Teams of volunteers have scoured remote locations east of San Diego for the girl, and thousands of fliers have been handed out.




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