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Police report progress in hunt for missing California girl

SAN DIEGO, California (CNN) -- Police said Tuesday they were making some progress in their investigation of a missing 7-year-old suburban San Diego girl, but she still has not been found and no arrests are imminent.

Danielle van Dam has been missing since Saturday, and police are treating the disappearance as a kidnapping.

"At this point, we still don't have Danielle back. That's our main goal. We're still trying to find Danielle," Lt. Jim Collins of the San Diego Police Department said at a news conference Tuesday afternoon. "We are making some progress, we feel, on the case. ... Time is of the essence."

A male neighbor who has been questioned by police voluntarily took police investigators Tuesday to the desert east of San Diego to show them where he was camping over the weekend, Collins said.

The investigation into the mysterious disappearance of 7-year-old Danielle Van Dam is making some progress, police believe. CNN's Thelma Gutierrez reports (February 6)

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Collins said the man is considered a "potential suspect" in the case but "we have no plans to arrest him."

While the neighbor has been cooperative and hasn't been arrested, Collins, speaking of the police focus on him, said, "We wouldn't be doing that if we thought it was a wild goose chase."

The child was last seen by her father, Damon, around 10 p.m. PT (1 a.m. ET) Friday in her room on the second floor of the family home, located in the Sabre Springs neighborhood. Her parents told police that they discovered her missing about 9 a.m. Saturday morning.

Danielle's mother, Brenda, returned home that night about 2 a.m. and noticed a blinking light on the burglar alarm and that a door was unlocked. The parents also said they noticed a gate open after her disappearance.

A neighbor was questioned both Monday and Tuesday and allowed police to search his house with scent dogs, Collins said. The neighbor's SUV and a motor home he used on his camping trip were impounded for forensic analysis, Collins said.

The man told police he was out of town on Saturday and Sunday and agreed to show investigators where he had gone over the weekend, Collins said.

More than three dozen people, including some registered sex offenders living in the area, have also been questioned, Collins said. Tuesday, police continued to search the area around the family home, including a nearby canyon, looking for clues.

The van Dams said they were doing "everything that we can" to get their daughter back, including taking a lie detector test. They appeared on several news shows Tuesday, hoping to draw attention to their daughter's disappearance, and they have set up a Web site with information.

Danielle, a second grader, is described as 4 feet tall, weighing 58 pounds with dirty-blond hair. She may be wearing blue pajamas with small flowers.

Her disappearance has prompted an outpouring of support from neighbors, who displayed ribbons in pink and purple, the missing girl's favorite colors. They also held a candlelight vigil Sunday to draw attention to her disappearance.

--CNN Correspondent Thelma Gutierrez contributed to this report.


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