Police accuse neighbor of kidnapping child

Saturday, February 23, 2002

SAN DIEGO -- A neighbor of a 7-year-old girl abducted from her bedroom three weeks ago was arrested Friday after her blood was found on his clothing and in his motor home, police said. The girl was still missing.

David Westerfield, 49, was taken into custody for investigation of kidnapping in the disappearance of Danielle van Dam, who vanished in the middle of the night.

Police Chief David Bejarano said DNA tests confirmed the blood in his vehicle and on a piece of his clothing was the girl's.

"I can't stress enough how strong that link is," the chief said.

Danielle was reported missing from her second-story bedroom the morning of Feb. 2 when her parents went to check on her.

Bejarano would not offer any details about what may have happened to the girl after she was abducted and would not discuss why she was kidnapped.

He said police have no conclusive evidence on whether she is still alive, but added, "As a father, I'm optimistic that at some point we will find Danielle."

Westerfield had come under suspicion almost immediately in the case and police had questioned him several times. His sport utility vehicle, motor home and other property also had been impounded.

Police said Friday that child pornography also was found in his home.

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