Van Dam testifies to lurid details

SAN DIEGO, June 5 (UPI) -- The father of slain second-grader Danielle van Dam on Wednesday revealed two different sides of life at his home around the time his daughter disappeared, one of a family that enjoyed Pop Tarts and eggs for breakfast and another in which he admitted to smoking marijuana and having sex with other women in front of his wife.

Damon van Dam admitted that he had withheld information from police about his marijuana smoking and kissing and cuddling in bed with his wife's friend at 2 a.m. on the night his 7-year-old daughter would go missing.


"I didn't think it was relevant at first to tell law enforcement about the encounter," he told Deputy District Attorney Jeff Dusek, "but later I told them when they said it was critical to tell them everything that happened that night."


It had been suggested by the defense in opening statements Tuesday that Brenda and Damon van Dam's lifestyle left their children vulnerable to unsavory types gaining entry to the home and that one of them could have known the layout of the house and been responsible for the abduction and killing of Danielle.

Steven Feldman, representing 50-year-old David Westerfield, who is accused of abducting the child from her bedroom and later dumping her body along a rural road, had Damon van Dam admitting that he had had sex with Barbara Easton and Denise Kemal, the friends who had accompanied his wife to a nearby bar for a Friday night of drinking and dancing.

"You lied to police -- isn't that true?" Feldman asked.

Van Dam admitted that he indeed previously had sex with the women in front of his wife, once at the home of Easton and another time at his own home.

"I've opened up my private life and have given every detail to get my daughter back," he said in a low voice.

Feldman gained a modest tactical victory when Damon van Dam was declared subject to being recalled to the stand, meaning he will not be allowed in the courtroom since he is still considered a witness.


Earlier in the direct testimony, Damon van Dam described the layout of his house and explained why he wasn't concerned when an alarm had been tripped.

"The dog was whimpering around quarter to two in the morning," he said, but added that he stayed up to wait for his wife, knowing she would be home soon after the bar closed. He said his wife showed up a short time later with two male friends and with Easton and Kemal at 1:54 a.m. After snuggling on the bed with Easton, he went to the kitchen and had leftover pizza and cookies.

He testified that the visitors left around 2:30 a.m., and that he and his wife went to bed but that he was up again at 3 a.m. to use the bathroom and noticed that the alarm light was flashing.

"I went to the kitchen. I noticed that cold air was coming in through a cracked sliding door; I made the assumption that someone had flicked a cigarette out the door when we were sitting at the table," said van Dam.

He described the activities of the next day as a routine Saturday. He was up around 8 a.m., taking out the garbage and getting ready for the arrival of neighborhood children for whom the van Dams were planning to baby-sit. When it was discovered that Danielle was not in her bed around 9 a.m., he said he and his wife grew frantic.


"Brenda yelled down that Danielle was not in her bed. It got frantic quick after this. I ran upstairs. We were checking every room. We got very nervous quick. We checked every room. We checked ridiculous places that Danielle would never go," he said.

Earlier, forensic dentist Norman Sperber testified how he had identified the body found on Feb. 27, five days after Westerfield was arrested when police found evidence of Danielle's previous presence in his motor home. The evidence included fingerprints, fibers, hair and blood.

Sperber suggested that Danielle's four missing teeth could have been loosened by the trauma of suffocation, bolstering the case of the prosecution, which has said that Westerfield smothered the child.

"If there were some injury, then in decomposition those teeth would be more apt to come loose," he said.

He rejected the theory that scavenging animals might have carried off the missing teeth, although one tooth was found lodged in the throat of the body.

"Predatory animals will go after soft tissue, such as the muscles and inner organs; they will go to more nutritious tissues such as the liver and kidneys," Sperber told the jury.

Sperber said he saw animal activity on the child's arms and legs from looking at autopsy photographs, but not in the area of the mouth.


Later in the day, San Diego County Medical Examiner Dr. Brian Blackbourne testified after that Danielle's body was in a state of advanced decomposition when he viewed it at the scene.

"The body had marked decomposition with tissue missing, mummified, dried, but still quite recognizable with blond and fairly long hair, all skin and muscle missing by animals, thigh tissue missing, the right leg below the knee was intact, the right foot intact, but the left leg, the foot was actually missing," he said.


(Reported by Kristina Rebelo in Los Angeles.)

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