Jury deliberating in trial of California man accused of killing, kidnapping 7-year-old girl

Friday, August 9th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

SAN DIEGO (AP) _ After two months of testimony and more than two days of emotional closing arguments, a jury began deliberating whether a neighbor abducted and killed 7-year-old Danielle van Dam.

The jury got the case after prosecutor Jeff Dusek concluded his closing rebuttal argument Thursday morning, telling jurors it was clear David Westerfield was Danielle's killer.

``Don't be misled,'' he said. ``Rely on the evidence.''

The jury adjourned Thursday afternoon without reaching a verdict and was to meet again Friday.

Westerfield, a self-employed engineer who lived two doors from Danielle's family, is charged with kidnapping, murder and possession of child pornography. The 50-year-old divorced father of two could face the death penalty if convicted.

Danielle was last seen on Feb. 1 when her father put her to bed in their two-story home in suburban San Diego. After a massive search, the girl's nude body was found on Feb. 27 along a rural road east of San Diego.

Westerfield's lawyer argued in his closing argument that it was the lifestyle of Danielle's parents, including marijuana use and sex with another couple, that exposed their home to other people who might be responsible for the girl's death.

Attorney Steven Feldman also said it was ``absurd'' to suggest Westerfield could have entered the van Dam home and taken the girl without being caught or leaving physical evidence.

Dusek dismissed those arguments as ``last chance desperation,'' saying they didn't explain how Danielle's fingerprints, blood, and hair ended up in Westerfield's motor home and why strands of her hair were found in the sheets of his bed.

He also reminded jurors that Westerfield took a jacket with Danielle's blood to a dry cleaner two days after she vanished.

``This is the smoking gun ... Danielle's blood on that jacket,'' he said, pointing to a photograph of the jacket on a large screen in the courtroom. ``Give me another explanation for how it got here.''

Jurors were originally scheduled to take Friday off from deliberations but told Judge William Mudd they would prefer to meet. Mudd granted the request without saying why they chose to forgo the break.