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San Diego woman recalls meeting man accused of killing daughter

Updated:
SAN DIEGO (AP) _ At times holding back tears, Brenda van Dam testified Thursday that she first met the neighbor accused of killing her 7-year-old daughter when she and the girl went to his home selling Girl Scout cookies last year.

Van Dam paused when she was asked how many children she has. ``Three,'' she answered, referring to her two sons and Danielle, whose body was found along a rural road last month.

The testimony during a preliminary hearing to determine whether David Westerfield, 50, will stand trial on charges of kidnapping, murder and possession of child pornography. He has pleaded innocent.

During questioning by prosecutor Jeff Dusek, van Dam recalled first meeting Westerfield in 2001 when she and her daughter went to his home in their north San Diego neighborhood to sell the cookies.

She said she had little contact with the twice-divorced engineer until earlier this year when she ran into him at a local bar while she was out with two girlfriends.

Days later, she went to Westerfield's home with Danielle and one of her sons to again sell Girl Scout cookies, she said. As the children explored the home, van Dam said she chatted with Westerfield.

He said he often hosted ``adult parties'' and barbecues and invited van Dam and her husband.

She said she thought it odd Westerfield mentioned ``adult parties.''

``I didn't know what he meant by that,'' she testified.

Van Dam then recalled details about Danielle's disappearance.

Van Dam said she and and her two girlfriends met on Feb. 1 and shared a marijuana cigarette in van Dam's garage before going out. Her sons were playing a video game inside the home with their father and Danielle was reading a book.

The three women returned to the bar where she had seen Westerfield the weekend before. They saw Westerfield again, he bought drinks for them and later watched them play pool.

At one point, van Dam said she and her friends went to her truck in the parking lot to smoke the rest of their marijuana cigarette.

The three returned to van Dam's home, meeting up with two male friends there. She noticed that a light on the home's alarm panel indicated a door was open; they found a side door on the garage ajar.

After eating pizza, the friends left and Brenda and her husband, Damon, locked up the house and went to bed about 2:30 a.m. without checking on the children. They discovered Danielle after getting up.

Van Dam said she was ``frantic'' and the couple searched throughout the house, and the Jacuzzi in back, ``places you would never want to look.''
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