Family, friends, searchers mourn slain San Diego girl kidnapped last month - - Tulsa, OK - News, Weather, Video and Sports - |

Family, friends, searchers mourn slain San Diego girl kidnapped last month


SAN DIEGO (AP) _ Family and friends of a slain girl gathered Saturday to remember Danielle van Dam for her typical childhood pursuits, including hiking in nearby canyons and helping her mom in the kitchen.

More than 1,000 people attended the memorial in La Jolla Shores, an oceanside park Danielle's father said was one of her favorite places. Many mourners knew the girl only through her gap-toothed smile on thousands of missing person fliers.

``Danielle, we miss you,'' classmate Michelle Wintersteen told mourners at a park overlooking the Pacific Ocean. ``The school misses you. The community misses you.''

Danielle, 7, was abducted Feb. 1 from her family's home. A massive volunteer search combed the desert east of San Diego for weeks before her body was found along a rural road Feb. 27.

Her parents, Brenda and Damon van Dam, sat crying with their sons, ages 9 and 5, as the family minister conducted the service. White doves and balloons, in Danielle's favorite colors of pink and purple, were released at the end of the service.

``It's just going to take time to heal, but it will always be with me,'' said Joseph Nemes, 41, a plumber who was part of the volunteer team that found the girl's body. ``I'll never forget this.''

A neighbor of the van Dam family, David Westerfield, is being held on murder, kidnapping and child pornography charges. A judge ruled Thursday that there is enough evidence to try Westerfield, a 50-year-old divorced engineer. He has pleaded innocent.
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