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Prosecutor: Child's body dumped 'like trash'

David Westerfield in court on Tuesday.  

SAN DIEGO, California (CNN) -- Prosecutors laid out their case Tuesday against the man accused of killing 7-year-old Danielle van Dam, saying neighbor David Westerfield kidnapped her, killed her and "dumped her body like trash."

Prosecutor Jeff Dusec told the jury of six men and six women that fingerprints, blood and hair samples recovered from Westerfield's motor home will point to him as the culprit in Danielle's death.

The suburban San Diego girl was reported missing by her parents February 2. After a search, her decomposed body was found on February 27 along a rural road east of San Diego, 25 miles from her home.

"Somebody sneaked in that home, somebody was able to get upstairs, somebody was able to get her out of the house," Dusec said as a picture of a smiling Danielle was projected onto a screen in the courtroom.

Indictment: People v. Westerfield  (FindLaw document, PDF format)
Court TV: Complete coverage of the trial 
Prosecutors laid out their case against the man accused of killing 7-year-old Danielle van Dam. CNN's Thelma Gutierrez reports (June 5)

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Facing a mountain of DNA evidence, David Westerfield is set to go on trial for the kidnapping and murder of 7-year-old Danielle van Dam. CNN's Thelma Gutierrez reports (June 4)

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"That somebody killed her, murdered her and that somebody dumped her body like trash," he said. "The evidence will show you who that is -- the evidence we present will focus on David Westerfield."

As he spoke, a mug shot of Westerfield was projected onto a screen, next to one of Danielle.

Westerfield, 50, has pleaded not guilty to the kidnapping and murder charges. If convicted, he could face the death penalty

Dusec acknowledged in his opening statements that elements of the parent's lifestyle, including marijuana use, would likely come out during the trial. He said Danielle's mother had three social contacts with Westerfield: once while selling Girl Scout cookies with her daughter and twice at a bar -- including February 1, the night Danielle was last seen when she was tucked into bed by her father at home.

Westerfield, a twice-divorced father of grown children, was arrested February 22. He first became a suspect because he had left on a desert camping trip within hours of Danielle's disappearance.

Danielle's disappearance drew national headlines and rallied scores of volunteers to search for her in the hills surrounding the family's home.

Dusec suggested that Westerfield kidnapped Danielle with the intention of molesting her, saying that authorities found child pornography in his motor home. But her body was so badly decomposed that the medical examiner could not determine a specific cause of death or whether the girl had been sexually assaulted, he said.

Danielle van Dam
Danielle van Dam  

Dusec said the medical examiner was able to rule out certain causes of death, including gunshots. But the examiner could not rule out suffocation, he said.

The girl's parents are on the prosecution witness list. A family spokesperson told CNN that Damon van Dam has been told to be ready to testify Tuesday afternoon. His wife Brenda has been told to be ready to take the stand Wednesday.

Since the couple are witnesses, they will not be allowed in the courtroom as spectators until after they have completed their testimony.




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