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Fibers on Dead Girl Said to Match Suspect's

June 26, 2002|TONY PERRY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SAN DIEGO — Fibers found on and near the body of Danielle van Dam are identical to those seized from the home of David Westerfield, the neighbor accused of kidnapping and murdering the 7-year-old, a police department criminalist testified Tuesday.

Jennifer Shen testified that the orange and blue fibers found wrapped around Danielle's necklace, in her hair, and near and on her body were "similar in all the ways we could test them" to fibers found on laundry and in the master bedroom at Westerfield's home.

Under questioning from Deputy Dist. Atty. George "Woody" Clarke, Shen said that it is "reasonable that the fibers came in contact with the hair and necklace at or near the time of death."

But under cross-examination from defense attorney Steve Feldman, Shen said she cannot be certain that the fibers found on the dead girl were from the same sources as those found in Westerfield's home.

Shen's testimony came as the prosecution neared the end of its case against Westerfield, 50, a self-employed design engineer who lived two doors from the Van Dam family. He could face the death penalty if convicted.

James Watkins, a police computer expert, testified that Westerfield kept a large collection of pictures of children in sexually suggestive poses stored on computer disks on his home computer.

While Watkins was providing a 30-minute explanation of the difference between a Zip disk and a compact disc, several jurors began to nod off and were gently chided by Superior Court Judge William Mudd.

"I want everyone in the room to open those eyes," Mudd said.

Danielle van Dam disappeared Feb. 2. Her body was discovered Feb. 27 in a rural area of the county 40 miles from her home. Westerfield was arrested Feb. 22, after police investigators allegedly found her blood, hair and fingerprints in Westerfield's home and recreational vehicle.

Clarke had told jurors that dark hair was found clutched in Danielle's hand. But Shen testified that the hair was that of Danielle and not Westerfield.

In other developments, Mudd banned Danielle's father, Damon, from attending the trial after sheriff's deputies reported that he had asked about how Westerfield is brought to court each day from jail. Brenda van Dam, the girl's mother, attends the trial.

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