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Van Dams sue daughter's killer

David Westerfield

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• Court TV: Westerfield case external link
• Complaint: People v. Westerfield  (FindLaw, PDF)external link

LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- The parents of 7-year-old Danielle van Dam filed a civil suit Thursday against the convicted killer of the little girl, one day before the man is sentenced in the case.

David Westerfield faces a death sentence for the kidnapping and killing of Danielle in February.

Lawyers for her parents said the lawsuit is not about making Westerfield pay for his crime.

"It's not about money," said van Dam attorney Spencer Busby. "They want to send a message of deterrence and prevent Westerfield from profiting while he sits in San Quentin prison."

A jury recommended Westerfield be put to death after convicting the 50-year-old of the van Dam family of the little girl's death. San Diego Superior Court Judge William Mudd on Friday refused to overturn that recommendation.

The trial for the former engineer, one of the van Dam's neighbors, ended in August following three months of testimony from 100 witnesses and 200 exhibits of forensic and circumstantial evidence before a six-man, six-woman jury.

Prosecutors say Westerfield abducted Danielle from her own bedroom, assaulted her and dumped her nude body along a remote Southern California highway.

The wrongful death lawsuit alleges infliction of emotional distress for Damon and Brenda van Dam and seeks to freeze any assets belonging to Westerfield. It also asks that Westerfield refrain from selling, transferring, licensing or securing patent rights to his former businesses. The van Dams also want a court to deny any attempt Westerfield may make in selling his life story, said Busby.

"The van Dams do not want him sitting on death row writing his story and profiting from it," said Busby. "Every day they miss their child and every day they have to drive by Westerfield's home in anguish."

In pressing for the death penalty for Westerfield, prosecutor Jeff Dusek argued that Westerfield showed "no compassion, no mercy, no pity" when he yanked the girl from her bed in the middle of the night late February 1 or early February 2, murdered her and then dumped her body. Her body was found February 27 along a desert road.

Westerfield was a focus of the police investigation from the beginning and was arrested based on physical evidence, including a blood-stained jacket and Danielle's fingerprints and DNA found in his house and mobile home.

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