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WHEN WAS DANIELLE VAN DAM KILLED?

The time of the 7-year-old's death has become a crucial issue in the capital murder trial of her neighbor, David Westerfield. She was missing for 26 days before rescuers found her naked, badly decomposed body along a roadside. Prosecutors claim she was killed within the first couple days of her abduction — when Westerfield says he was alone on a camping trip. But Westerfield's lawyers say the state of her remains indicates the defendant was already under police surveillance when she was killed and, therefore, he could not be the perpetrator. The defense called a pair of forensic entomologists who said bug evidence supported that theory. Prosecutors fought back with their own time-of-death experts. Here's a summary of the contradictory expert testimony.

 

 
 
 

 

Prosecution Experts:


 

Dr. Brian Blackbourne, MD
San Diego Medical Examiner
Testified that Danielle died between Feb. 1 and Feb. 18.
 

 
Dr. William Rodriguez III, PhD
Forensic Anthropologist
Estimated Danielle died between Jan. 17 and Jan. 31, but pressed by prosecutors, expanded time frame to include Feb. 1 to Feb. 6.
 
Madison Lee Goff, PhD
Forensic Entomologist
Estimated the latest insect infestation of Danielle's body, a process that can happen within 20 minutes of death, occurred was Feb. 9 to Feb. 14, but stressed that other factors may have delayed bug arrival.
 
 
Defense Experts:

 
Dr. Cyril Wecht, MD*
Forensic Pathologist
Agreed with Blackbourne’s Feb. 1 to Feb. 18 window.

 
David Faulkner
Forensic Entomologist
Said insect infestation of Danielle’s body happened Feb. 16 to Feb. 18.
 

 
Dr. Neal Haskell, PhD
Forensic Entomologist
Said infestation occurred Feb. 14 to Feb. 21 and when pressed by the prosecutor said Feb. 12 and 13 were also possible.
 

 
Robert Hall, PhD
Forensic Entomologist
Said Danielle's body was initially infested between Feb. 12 and Feb. 23.

*
Defense attorneys consulted with Wecht, but did not call him as a witness. His findings were discussed during Rodriguez’s testimony.

 


 

 
 
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