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To Catch a Killer


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David Westerfield is talking. “Everything in your life comes back and bites you,” he says. “You ever notice that?”Those words, along with many others, offer an extraordinary look at a killer. It’s all on video, but the judge in Westerfield’s murder trial kept it from the jury and the public.

The successful prosecution of Westerfield this summer, following the disappearance of 7-year-old Danielle van Dam, received unprecedented media attention in San Diego. But the press conferences and courtroom coverage didn’t go all the way inside. Sources close to the police investigation of Danielle’s murder gave San Diego Magazine a look at the video of Westerfield, along with the inside story of the case—the one the public never got.

The story begins in an interrogation room at San Diego Police headquarters, on the evening of February 5. The tape shows Westerfield with his head down on a table, sleeping. He’s been up for almost two days straight. Detectives have been with him around the clock, questioning him and searching his house.

That morning, Westerfield took detectives to all the places he’d driven his RV the previous weekend, when Danielle’s parents reported her missing. It’s a 600-mile drive. The road trip ends at police headquarters.

Westerfield, wearing dark clothes and a baseball cap, wakes up as detectives Michael Ott and Mark Keyser enter the interrogation room. Ott sits next to Westerfield, and Keyser takes the other chair, face-to-face with the killer.

Ott played football in high school, and he’s still built like a lineman, with his brown hair combed straight back. Keyser is built more like a kicker. They’re on offense, and they go right at Westerfield.

“I know you had something to do with it,” Ott says.

Westerfield protests, saying he’s trying to be helpful. “Have I cooperated?” he asks.
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