Anatomy of a Murder


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(page 1 of 5)

Amid the superstores and strip malls that pass for community in the suburbs of San Diego, some small-town traditions remain. Parents still come out to watch their kids play Little League baseball, just like their parents did.

There’s sunshine and sunflower seeds. Dirt and grass.

But in the Carmel Mountain Ranch Little League, grass is a touchy subject this season. Parents have admitted smoking it, and one of them says a coach supplied it.

Grass. Marijuana, that is.

The coach is Rich Brady (not the well-known San Diego clothier with the same name). Some wanted Brady to resign, but others involved with his team threatened to pull their children out of the league if he left, according to a league official. Brady declined comment on the subject. The dispute went all the way to Little League headquarters in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.

The Carmel Mountain Ranch league was covering its bases, according to the league official. “The general consensus from everyone involved is unless the man is charged with something, and his performance on the field is affected by choices in his personal life, at this point there are no grounds to remove him,” the official says.

Rich Brady is still coaching, but “It’s one of those situations where we wish he would go away quietly,” says another coach.

And who is the parent who says Brady supplied marijuana?

Brenda van Dam.

The disappearance of her 7-year-old daughter, Danielle, set off a San Onofre–size chain reaction in San Diego on February 2. Three days later, Brenda and her husband, Damon, were on national television, pleading for Danielle’s return. They kept making pleas in daily news conferences before dozens of reporters and photographers outside their Sabre Springs home—with the man suspected of abducting their daughter just two doors away.

Police quickly focused on the neighbor, David Westerfield, as thousands of volunteers kept searching for Danielle. Twenty days after she disappeared, the cops arrested Westerfield, who pleaded not guilty to murdering her. It took five more days for searchers to find Danielle’s body, under a tree by a road in East County.

Westerfield’s murder trial—he faces the death penalty—was scheduled to start May 17. A judge imposed a gag order on most of the trial participants—including the van Dams, the police and the district attorney. San Diego Magazine offered each a chance to comment for this story. They either declined, citing the gag order, or did not respond.

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