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Desert yields no clues of missing girl

February 16, 2002

GLAMIS — Aided by helicopters, personnel from the county Sheriff's Office and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, San Diego police searched for a 7-year-old missing girl in this area of the Imperial Valley desert Thursday.

According to the San Diego police press office, nothing of significance was found in the Glamis area. They added police investigators were not going to return to the desert today, adding the investigation would now turn away from the Valley.

Authorities are searching for Danielle van Dam, reportedly abducted from her home between Friday night and Saturday morning.

Police have focused part of their investigation on a neighbor who has been identified as David Westerfield, 49, who lives two houses from Danielle's family.

Westerfield reportedly told authorities he had traveled to the Imperial Valley on Saturday and had spent time in the Glamis area. Earlier this week, Westerfield voluntarily brought police investigators to the Imperial Valley desert and police returned Thursday to comb the Glamis area.


Police have identified Westerfield as a "potential suspect."

However, they have said they are following up on the more than 200 leads they have received since Saturday.

Westerfield, an engineer, has hired a criminal defense attorney. The attorney, Steven Feldman, declined to discuss the case with reporters.

"There's an ongoing investigation. It's completely inappropriate for me to discuss any of the details," Feldman said outside his office.

Westerfield earlier talked with reporters, saying he saw the girl's mother at a bar the night before Danielle's disappearance was reported.

The motor home and Westerfield's Toyota 4-Runner were impounded. The Toyota was returned to him, but police have kept the motor home and took more than a dozen boxes and bags full of items taken from Westerfield's home.

Danielle's parents, Damon and Brenda van Dam, left home Thursday with investigators for an undisclosed destination. The parents are not considered suspects, and Brenda van Dam, 39, has said she passed a lie detector test administered by police.

The parents have said they have only a passing acquaintance with their neighbor.

"He's an acquaintance. He's not a friend," the girl's father said Wednesday. "We've seen him since we moved in. We wave to him, we say hello to him when we drive by."

Damon van Dam told investigators he woke up around 1:30 a.m. Saturday to let the dog out and noticed a burglar alarm light was blinking. He discovered a sliding glass door was open and he closed it. He said he did not check Danielle's room.

Brenda van Dam said she came home around 2:30 a.m. Saturday and stayed up for an hour with her husband and friends. She said she made sure the children's bedroom doors were closed to keep from disturbing them, but didn't check on the children.

A private group, the Millennium Children's Fund of Beverly Hills, has offered a $10,000 reward for information leading to Danielle's return.

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