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Law Enforcement Officials Believe Body Discovered That of Danielle Van Dam

Aired February 28, 2002 - 12:17   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Now on to the case of the missing girl in San Diego. As we reported earlier, law enforcement officials believe a body discovered late yesterday is that of Danielle Van Dam. On their Web site, Danielle's parents have announced the suspension of further search efforts.

With the latest on this case, CNN's Frank Buckley in El Cajon in San Diego County. He joins us there now, .

Hi there.

FRANK BUCKLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Fredricka.

A homicide lieutenant heading up this investigation and crime scene here just came by to brief us a few minutes ago on what is exactly happening out here today. Lieutenant Jim Duncan again using the phrase "high probability" in describing the body found in this location as being that of Danielle Van Dam's.

Right now, we can give you a sense of what's happening out here at the crime scene. The lieutenant telling us that the investigators here are going over the scene with a -- quote -- "fine toothed comb." Police are operating on the theory that the body was dropped here shortly after the disappearance based on the extent of the decomposition of the body. He tells us that the body was not wrapped in a blanket or hidden in any way, and he tells us that cadaver dogs are here to recover any remains that are found apart from the body, because it was in the elements for so long.

Evidence technicians are taking plasters of tire tracks that have been found, and in half an hour, a helicopter will land here, and an evidence technician will go up to take aerial photos of the scene. Police will be here on the scene for a number of hours today. The finding of this body, believed to be Danielle Van Dam's, ends a terrible chapter in this community's search for girl. It has effected everybody here, including we found out in our discussion with the lieutenant, the detectives from the homicide bureau, who deal with murder on a daily basis.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LT. JIM DUNCAN, SAN DIEGO POLICE: I think about my own children, my grandchildren, and I appreciate the fact that they are safe, and that they are, you know, loving people and that they are still around.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BUCKLEY: And again, there is a person in custody, David Westerfield, a 50-year-old neighbor of the Van Dams. On Tuesday, he was charged with murder, and kidnapping and child pornography. He has plead not guilty to the charges -- Fredericka.

WHITFIELD: And, Frank, as they continue to look for tire tracks as well as shoe tracks, I understand as well, that one thing that leads them to believe that this might just be that of Danielle Van Dam is that there was a necklace on this body, as well as an earing that matched those owned by Danielle Van Dam.

And as well another question, have they yet found -- is there a murder weapon they have come across out there at all?

BUCKLEY: Well, first you are right about how they have been able to come to at least this phrase of high probability that the body matches the description of Danielle. There is a necklace that many people have seen in the home videos, and in the photographs that have been posted around in this area for people who've been searching for this missing girl that suggests that this is, in fact, Danielle Van Dam.

We will have a -- we are expecting, by early afternoon, according it to the lieutenant, a positive identification using dental records. On the issue of any sort of a murder weapon, that was covered last night during a news conference, they called it murder instrument in they're clinical sort of a description. They said they didn't find anything like that, and so far today, in our discussion with the lieutenant, he also echoes that. So far, nothing in terms of a murder weapon has been found here -- Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: Thanks very much, Frank Buckley from San Diego County.

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