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Neighbor eyed in hunt for San Diego girl

SAN DIEGO, Feb. 5 (UPI) -- Police investigating the apparent kidnapping of a 7-year-old San Diego girl searched the home of a neighbor and impounded his sport utility vehicle early Tuesday, although the man was not arrested and was said by police to be cooperating.

San Diego police declined to say what kind of evidence they had found at the home and whether it might lead to the return of young Danielle van Dam, a second-grader, who disappeared from her parents' home in the Saber Springs subdivision north of downtown. Police searched the neighbor's home, yard and Jacuzzi. Shoes were removed from his home and were taken over to the van Dam home where a police dog checked for scents.

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"We have things that we wanted to check out in his house," police Lt. Jim Collins told reporters Tuesday. "We are doing some things to process the scene and possibly eliminate him as a suspect."

Collins added that the man, whom he identified as David Westerfield, had previous contact with the van Dam family, however he was not the only person detectives were investigating.

"He is cooperating with us. He talked to us yesterday and he is talking to us today," Collins said.

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The questioning of the neighbor appeared to be the first major break in the case that has taken on an increased urgency since last weekend when Danielle disappeared in what police believe was a kidnapping by a stranger.

Danielle was last seen late Friday after she had been put to bed wearing blue pajamas. Her father, Damon van Dam, was alone in the house until early Saturday morning when Brenda van Dam returned home from a restaurant in nearby Poway where she had been with some of her friends.

After Brenda van Dam returned home, her husband noticed a blinking light on the control panel for the home's security system that indicated a door or window was open. A check of the premises revealed an open side door on the garage and an open sliding glass door on the house itself.

"She wasn't in her room. I went to look for her in the bathroom, her brothers' rooms; I searched the house for her, calling her name and no one answered," Brenda van Dam said Tuesday in an appearance on NBC's "Today" show.

The San Diego Union-Tribune reported Tuesday that state records indicated that 13 registered sex offenders in Saber Springs and 30 more in nearby Poway, although none was considered to be high-risk offenders.

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Meanwhile, photographs of the blue-eyed blond child were being distributed around the area.

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