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Lie detected, Westerfield claimed compassion for van Dam family

By Harriet Ryan
Court TV

David Westerfield was sentenced to death for the slaying of Danielle van Dam.
David Westerfield was sentenced to death for the slaying of Danielle van Dam.

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(Court TV) -- David Westerfield flunked a lie detector test in spectacular fashion last February and then told San Diego detectives it was because he had too much compassion for Danielle van Dam's family, newly released police tapes show.

"The only thing I can mark it up to is empathy," Westerfield said after a polygraph indicated his claims of innocence in the 7-year-old's abduction were "100 percent deceptive."

Westerfield was sentenced to death on January 3 for Danielle's kidnapping and murder.  The jury that convicted him never heard about the lie detector test. Tapes of the questioning session were released Wednesday after media organizations sued for access to them and other materials deemed too prejudicial for release during the trial.

Polygraph specialist Paul Redden, a civilian employee of the San Diego Police Department, interviewed Westerfield February 4, two days after Danielle vanished from her bedroom.

"Did I pass?" the 50-year-old engineer asked Redden moments after answering the final question.

"No, you did not pass my test and I don't think that's a surprise to you," Redden shot back, adding, "You are somehow involved in the disappearance of Danielle van Dam."

Westerfield protested, "No, I'm not" and offered to retake the test. He also said his "mechanical background" made him distrustful of the results. But Redden showed him how his blood pressure "went crazy" every time he answered a question about Danielle and noted that everyone else tested, including the girl's parents, "passed with flying colors."

Westerfield first said he couldn't have reacted to her name since "I didn't even know her name until today," but finally told a detective the results must have been skewed by his own concern for the missing child.

Danielle's naked, badly decomposed body was found by a roadside three weeks later.


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