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Authorities Believe Van Dam's Body Found

Aired February 28, 2002 - 06:01   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: And authorities do believe they have found the body of seven-year old Danielle van Dam. A volunteer search group found the body under a group of trees in a remote area east of San Diego. The girl, as you know, disappeared four weeks ago, and a 50-year old neighbor has already been charged with kidnapping and her murder.

And San Diego Police say the body of that girl will be handed over to the medical examiner for identification later today. A little bit more on the search to tell you about, those volunteer searchers discovered the body near a two-lane road about 25 miles from San Diego. Of course authorities haven't determined the cause of death, but let's listen as prosecutors describe the crime scene.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL PFINGST, DISTRICT ATTORNEY, SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA: Detectives have observed a three to four-foot tall, young, white female, apparently with blonde hair, on her back. The body has a plastic necklace around its neck similar to the one seen in the missing person flyer that's been distributed throughout San Diego County with Danielle van Dam's picture on it. One earring is visible and appears to be the same as the one described having been worn by her at the time of her abduction.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO: The neighbor under arrest, David Westerfield, he's pleaded not guilty to charges of kidnapping and murder in the case. If convicted, he'll face the death penalty. Danielle van Dam's parents were notified yesterday of the discovery. Reporter John Soderman (ph) of CNN affiliate KUSI was at the van Dam home and he has details for you.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN SODERMAN (ph), CNN AFFILIATE KUSI: The garage door closes at the van Dam residence after Brenda returns home shortly after the news breaks, the news that a body of a child has been found. It is the last the media will see of her this truly sad day. Minutes later neighbors arrive with offerings of food delivered in respectful silence. A female police officer then walks up, but declines to talk to reporters. Then, Captain Ron Newman (ph), emerges from the house. He is mobbed by anxious reporters and with the utmost aplomb, tells them to back off.

RON NEWMAN (ph): I'm not going to discuss it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK.

NEWMAN: It's a family issue. I know you guys want to make it -- it's definitely a newsworthy issue, but truly this is a family issue.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yeah.

NEWMAN: And so, I'm not going to comment about the family. I'm not going to do it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK.

SODERMAN: Shortly before dusk, a man of the cloth, Father Joseph Acton, is summoned to the house. Before he meets with the van Dams, he says the following.

REV. JOSEPH ACTON, ST. TIMOTHY'S EPISCOPAL CHURCH: I'm going to be here to try to help the van Dams and to be with them in their pain, and just cry with them and grieve with them ...

SODERMAN: At nightfall a neighbor comes out and employs the media to show respect for two little boys who will coming out to have dinner.

(UNINTELLIGIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's all we ask.

SODERMAN: An hour later, Father Acton comes back out.

ACTON: As you can imagine, they're devastated and they're being surrounded by family and friends, and there's a lot of praying going on.

SODERMAN: How important is prayer right now?

ACTON: Crucial. Crucial.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COSTELLO: That report from John Soderman of CNN San Diego affiliate KUSI.

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