New clues in San Diego kidnapping

SAN DIEGO, Feb. 13 (UPI) -- Though police Wednesday said they were losing hope of finding Danielle van Dam alive, the investigation into the 7-year-old San Diego girl's disappearance almost two weeks ago continued moving forward with the discovery of a possible clue linked to the prime suspect in the case.

Police told reporters that a backpack discovered in a riverbed about a mile from the Van Dam's suburban home was tied in some way to David Westerfield, a neighbor who has been questioned repeatedly and who remained under surveillance while DNA tests were being conducted on possible evidence removed from his motor home.


"We've got a dog; we're going to try and pick up a scent," said Police Lt. Jim Duncan.

Police have not released many details about the backpack, which The San Diego Union-Tribune said contained articles of clothing, however investigators this week revisited the crime scene with a bloodhound belonging to the sheriff's department in neighboring Riverside County that has worked with the FBI on high-profile cases.

The sad-eyed hound went over the missing girl's bedroom on Tuesday in hopes of picking up the scent of her abductor.


Danielle disappeared 12 days ago when she was apparently taken from her bedroom. Police have since focused on the movements that weekend of Westerfield, who said he saw Danielle's mother at a nearby bar on Friday night and then took off alone in his motor home to the Silver Strand beach and deep into the Imperial County desert east of San Diego.

Duncan admitted to reporters late Tuesday that the chances that the case would have a happy ending were fading.

"We are not real hopeful on her condition," he lamented.

Westerfield has not been arrested, however his home and vehicles have been searched and a DNA samples taken from the self-employed engineer were being examined by the FBI's crime lab in Washington.

Duncan also confirmed that the controversial lifestyle of Danielle's parents, Damon and Brenda van Dam, was not part of the police investigation despite the uproar it created in San Diego and national media circles.

Media reports described the Van Dams as "swingers" who engaged in spouse swapping as an alternative lifestyle. It was reported that the couple was partying with some other couples in the locked garage that had been turned into a rumpus room of sorts when Danielle vanished.


The couple has not specifically denied the allegations, however they have insisted the media focus should be on their daughter and not on them.

According to Duncan, there was no evidence that the Van Dams and their after-hours guests were involved in the girl's disappearance.

"At this point we just have one, just one person we are looking at," said Duncan.

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