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DNA expert: Blood on Westerfield's jacket matches slain girl's

By Harriet Ryan
Court TV

SAN DIEGO, California (Court TV) -- In the most damning testimony yet against David Westerfield, a DNA analyst said Thursday that blood stains on the defendant's jacket and on the carpet of his motor home match the genetic profile of his slain neighbor, Danielle van Dam.

Annette Peer of the police department's crime lab told jurors in the capital murder trial that there was only a one in 670 quadrillion chance the blood on the jacket came from someone else and a one in 130 quadrillion the carpet stain was not Danielle's.

When Peer described a quadrillion as 1 followed by 15 zeroes, two spectators in the courtroom gallery gasped. The world population stands at roughly six billion, or 6 followed by nine zeroes.

Prosecutors claim that Westerfield, a 50-year-old engineer who lived two doors from the 7-year-old and her family, abducted Danielle from her bed last February, raped and suffocated her.

Westerfield's lawyers have explained away Danielle's hair and fingerprints, also found in his RV, by suggesting that the second-grader may have played in the recreational vehicle, but they have offered no similar explanation for the blood.

In very brief cross-examinations of Peer and other forensic experts who testified Thursday, defense lawyer Steven Feldman appeared to concede the blood was Danielle's. He focused on what the experts did not know -- the circumstances under which the blood spilled.

"Can you tell how it got to whatever location it came from," Feldman asked Lewis Maddox, a laboratory directory at the private Orchid Cellmark forensic lab who supervised a second test of the jacket stain which confirmed Peer's results.

"No, I cannot," Maddox said.

Another DNA analyst, Catherine Thiesen of the FBI lab in Washington, said a hair found on a bathmat in the RV "could not be excluded" as belonging to Danielle or one of her maternal relatives. She said she ruled out other hairs in the SUV and in a vacuum cleaner bag as coming from the victim, however. Two of those hairs were consistent with the DNA profile of a teenager identified as "Danielle L," the daughter of an acquaintance of Westerfield.

Police seized the jacket later tested by Peer from a dry cleaner where Westerfield dropped it off the day after he returned from a trip in his RV. Prosecutors maintain he had Danielle in his RV for part of that trip and later dumped her body on a roadside.

Peer said a three-centimeter blood stain on the shoulder of the blue-green jacket matched Danielle's and a stain along the zipper was consistent with Westerfield's DNA. A third blood stain on the collar of the jacket did not yield results, she said.

The carpet stain came from an area between the RV closet and the bathroom, Peer said.

Prosecutors have implied that Westerfield cleaned the RV and his home of evidence. A detective previously testified that she smelled bleach in his garage and other police officers saw bleach at the top of a shopping list in Westerfield's kitchen and an empty bottle in his garbage.

"Bleach will very effectively destroy DNA," Peer said.

Peer said she was unable to find DNA in many of the samples crime scene technicians brought to her. Dark stains in the van Dams' garage and on their staircase yielded nothing nor did swabs of Danielle's body, a dark spot on a curtain in Westerfield's RV, and scrapings from underneath the victim's fingernails. Tests for semen on her body and on Westerfield's bedding also proved negative.

Danielle's body became badly decomposed in the three and a half weeks she was missing and prosecutor George Clarke quizzed Peer about the effect the rain and wildlife had on the preservation of evidence, "Can biological fluids on a body be washed off by the elements?" he asked.

"Yes, they can," said Peer.

Earlier in the day, criminalist Sean Soriano, a colleague of Peer, testified that he found two blond hairs inside a pair of boxer shorts from Westerfield's dryer. Westerfield has dark, short hair. Soriano also said he found additional blond hairs in Westerfield's bedding. So far jurors have not heard testimony about the origin of those hairs.




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