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Van Dam Murder Trial: Father's Testimony

Aired June 5, 2002 - 13:17   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.
CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: Right now, we move on to Los Angeles and the murder of 7-year-old Danielle van Dam. Testimony continues today in the trial of David Westerfield, a neighbor who's accused of kidnapping and killing the child in February.

CNN's Thelma Gutierrez has more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

THELMA GUTIERREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): David Westerfield sat in court. He stared straight ahead, and appeared to tremble as the prosecution laid out what they described as a mountain of physical evidence against him.

JEFF DUSEK, PROSECUTOR: The blood in the hallway matched up to Danielle Van Dam. We found three hairs. There were fingerprints found in the motor home, by the bed in the bedroom. Back by the headboard, off to the side, there's a cabinet.

GUTIERREZ: Blood, hair and fingerprints, evidence the prosecution hopes will convince jurors that David Westerfield, a twice-divorced father of two, kidnapped and murdered 7-year-old Danielle Van Dam.

STEVE FELDMAN, WESTERFIELD'S DEFENSE ATTY.: We have doubts as to cause of death. We have doubts as to the identity of Danielle Van Dam's killer. We have doubts as to who left her where she resided, where she remained. And we have doubts as to who took her. Darn.

GUTIERREZ: Snapping his fingers and slamming the podium, defense attorney Steven Feldman told jurors Westerfield is a conservative computer engineer, that it was Damon and Brenda Van Dam's hedonistic lifestyle that could have exposed Danielle to danger, especially the night before Danielle was reported missing. It was Brenda's night out with the girls.

FELDMAN: And they're turning the radio up so loud, it can be heard. And they're rocking out. They are literally rocking out. As the women stayed in the garage getting high, drinking, out comes Damon. Hey, what's up? Give me a hit. Barbara Easton keeps running her hand on down her breast while she's dancing publicly. And she finds it publicly -- not privately -- publicly embarrassing.

GUTIERREZ: That same friend, Barbara Easton, even ended up in Damon van Dam's bed that night, Feldman told jurors.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

Judge William Mudd said that he will allow certain questions about the van Dam's lifestyle to be raised today. Now, the defense argues that it is relevant because, they say, it may suggest that other people had access to the van Dam home and also their children.

Now, Damon van Dam was just sworn in a few moments ago. He is the second witness to take the stand right now.

Let's go live to the courtroom and listen in.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

DAMON VAN DAM: About this time four years ago. Exactly I'm not sure.

DUSEK: Who do you live there with?

VAN DAM: I live there with my wife and three children.

DUSEK: Who is the oldest child?

VAN DAM: Derek.

DUSEK: How do you spell "Derek"?

VAN DAM: D-E-R-E-K (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

DUSEK: (OFF-MIKE)

VAN DAM: Yes.

DUSEK: How hold is Derek?

VAN DAM: Derek's 10.

DUSEK: Does he go to school?

VAN DAM: Goes to school.

DUSEK: What grade is he in?

VAN DAM: He's in sixth -- he's in fourth grade.

DUSEK: You nervous?

VAN DAM: Yes.

DUSEK: What's your next child?

VAN DAM: Danielle.

DUSEK: When was she born?

VAN DAM: She was born September 26, 1994.

DUSEK: How old would she be?

VAN DAM: Seven.

DUSEK: Is she in school?

VAN DAM: Yes.

DUSEK: What grade?

VAN DAM: Second grade.

DUSEK: And your third child?

VAN DAM: Dylan. D-Y-L-A-N.

DUSEK: How old is he?

VAN DAM: He's about to turn 6.

DUSEK: Does he go to school?

VAN DAM: Yes.

DUSEK: What grade?

VAN DAM: Kindergarten.

DUSEK: What school do they go to?

VAN DAM: Creekside.

DUSEK: Where is that in relation to your house?

VAN DAM: Half mile away, down at the bottom of the hill, on Springhurst.

DUSEK: Let me show you a photo display, a board that we have had marked -- it looks like neighborhood aerials we haven't labeled. Do you see what we have depicted here, Mr. van Dam?

(CROSSTALK)

VAN DAM: Yes, I see.

DUSEK: Do you have your bearings based upon the aerials?

VAN DAM: Yes.

DUSEK: Can you locate your house on the top photograph, Photograph A?

VAN DAM: Yes, it's marked (UNINTELLIGIBLE). That's our house, the second one. That's the intersection.

DUSEK: All right, it has the VD on the roof?

VAN DAM: Yes.

DUSEK: And also in Photograph B, do you see your house?

VAN DAM: This is our house.

DUSEK: With the VD on the roof?

VAN DAM: Yes.

DUSEK: And also Photograph D, is that yours with the VD?

VAN DAM: Yes.

DUSEK: Where is the school in relation to your house?

VAN DAM: You would have to come down this street...

DUSEK: Which is?

VAN DAM: This is Mountain Pass. This is Springhurst. And you have to go down Springhurst -- it's the big hill -- and at the bottom of the hill, right before (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Road, is the school.

DUSEK: And you are indicating Photograph A on Exhibit 1. The street running top to bottom appears to be Mountain Pass.

VAN DAM: Yes.

DUSEK: And the street intersecting at the bottom of the photograph is Springhurst.

VAN DAM: Yes.

DUSEK: Were you still at the house when the kids would go to school?

VAN DAM: Typically, if I was, I would take them to school, which was rarely. But typically, I would have gone to work already when they went to school.

DUSEK: Did you know how they got to school?

VAN DAM: Usually, Brenda would drive them. Once in awhile, she would walk them. Usually, in summer, she would walk them. When it was cold out, she would drive them almost every day.

DUSEK: Do you have a dog?

VAN DAM: Yes.

DUSEK: What kind?

VAN DAM: What kind of dog?

DUSEK: Yes.

VAN DAM: A Weimaraner.

DUSEK: How long have you had the dog?

VAN DAM: Probably about eight months now. She's just over 1 year old.

DUSEK: Did you get her -- at what stage in her development?

VAN DAM: We got her, I think, around eight weeks, ten weeks maybe -- still a puppy.

DUSEK: Describe for us what a Weimaraner looks like (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

VAN DAM: It's like a pointer, like a short-hair pointer, about 60 points, about mid-thigh high, brown-gray color.

DUSEK: Did the dog bark?

VAN DAM: The dog doesn't typically bark. She'll bark to get in the house, but other than that, she won't bark.

DUSEK: Was there something done to affect its ability to bark?

VAN DAM: No, there wasn't. But she was -- the farm on which she grew up, the dogs had all been devoiced so they wouldn't bark. So she grew up without barking dogs around her.

DUSEK: You've lived in the neighborhood, I think you say, for almost four years. Were you the first owner of your house?

VAN DAM: No.

DUSEK: Did you come to know an individual by the name of David Westerfield?

VAN DAM: I didn't know him name until after this, but I knew who he was.

DUSEK: So you didn't know him name until these incidents arose?

VAN DAM: Yes.

DUSEK: Do you see him in court today?

VAN DAM: Yes, I do.

DUSEK: Point him out, please, and describe what he's wearing today.

VAN DAM: Wearing a gray jacket, white shirt, and a tie.

DUSEK: The record will reflect identification.

Did he live in your neighborhood?

GUTIERREZ: There you see Damon van Dam. He is being questioned by lead prosecutor Jeff Dusek. He was sworn in a short time ago. And Damon van Dam has just pointed out and identified David Westerfield, who is sitting in the courtroom.

The whole time, Westerfield has just stared straight ahead. He has shown very little emotion.

When Damon van Dam is questioned, cross-examined, later today by defense attorney Steven Feldman, he is expected to be asked very difficult, very embarrassing personal questions about the van Dams' personal lives. Brenda van Dam is expected to take the stand a little bit later today. While there's a possibility that both parents may be on the stand -- and they testified they will not be allowed to remain in the courtroom as spectators.

Back to you.

LIN: Thelma, can you explain, at least initially, why it is that the prosecutor here is asking some fairly mundane questions, like the location of the house, questions about the family dog, kids in the neighborhood?

GUTIERREZ: Well, that's what they've done with all the witnesses who have taken the stand. They've established, in the case of the forensic dentist who testified earlier today, all of his credentials. They spent about half an hour doing that. And in this case, it's just establishing that the van Dams have, in fact, two other children right now. Where they live, it's very commonplace to establish those facts.

LIN: I know we've go to let you go, but very quickly, Thelma, what specifically are you looking for out of Damon van Dam's testimony. What do you think might be interesting for your own reporting?

GUTIERREZ: I think it will be interesting to find out exactly what happened the night the child was reported missing. Again, Damon van Dam said that he had tucked Danielle in bed. He had gone to sleep. His wife had come home, apparently after a night out on the town with her friends. And in that process, one of the wife's friends went up and got into bed with him.

There's a lot that will come out about how Danielle was taken out of that home, whether or not anybody was aware of anybody coming into the home and removing the child. I'll be interesting to find out exactly how the child was removed from the home and where the parents were at the time.

LIN: And who else was in the home at the time.

Thank you very much, Thelma. I know you have got to get in and watch the proceedings. We'll check back with you as the developments unfold there.

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