To Catch a Killer
By Kevin Cox
(page 6 of 7)The detectives arrested Westerfield and brought him back to police headquarters. “You could just sense the anger in the air,” the source says. “People were pissed off. Holmes was so mad he was pale. Holmes had it out with Creighton, almost to the point where Holmes thought he was going to be transferred.”
(Assistant Chief Creighton had no comment, citing the gag order. San Diego Magazine also contacted Lieutenant Collins, Sergeant Holmes and Detective Thrasher. They either did not return phone messages, or declined comment because of the gag order.)
When Police Chief David Bejarano went on live TV and gave Ott and Keyser credit for the arrest, the anger only intensified. “It really, really, really pissed people off,” says another cop. “Those two got credit for what robbery did.”
Homicide Lieutenant Duncan has an entirely different memory of that day. “I’ve been a San Diego police officer for more than 30 years,” he says. “But when we arrested Mr. Westerfield, and when we put that case together, I was never more proud of being a San Diego police officer than I was at that moment. To me, that was the whole spirit of this thing.”
Westerfield was now in custody, but it would be five more days before searchers found Danielle’s body. “It was unbelievable, the kind of pressure everybody was under,” says a source. “In their hearts, they wanted to get that little girl back. They didn’t want to see her laying out there, ending up the way she did. It was a very emotional time for everybody.”
As Westerfield sat in a holding cell in homicide, Ott and Keyser reportedly briefed their sergeant, Bill Holmes, about the arrest. “That’s when Newman comes back,” says one source. “Newman wants to know if Westerfield said anything, if he told them where Danielle is. Newman tells Holmes, ‘Send Ott and Keyser back in there ... find out where that little girl’s at.’
“Holmes tells him, ‘Captain, he’s got a lawyer. Are you sure you want me to send my guys back in there? They could be sued.’
“Newman’s response is: ‘I don’t care. I want to know where that little girl’s at.’”
(Contacted twice for this story, Newman twice offered “No comment” for the record.)
Since Danielle’s disappearance, the cops assigned to the case had been working 18 to 19 hours a day, every day. They were taking it personally. They were thinking of their own children. Danielle wasn’t just another missing person. She was their little girl.
“Put it this way,” says one cop. “There were a few tears shed by some pretty experienced investigators. You don’t see that very often.”
On February 27, a volunteer search party discovered Danielle’s body in a field off Dehesa Road in East County. It took more than a day for SDPD to process the crime scene. Around 5 p.m. on February 28, investigators decided they’d collected all the evidence they were going to find.
It was time to go home, but that’s not what cops do. Nearby Singing Hills Golf Course had been providing food and water to everyone at the scene. So the detectives and their supervisors decided to go to the bar at the golf course.
But according to two sources, Newman told Ott and Keyser to take crime-scene photos of Danielle’s body to the jail to show to Westerfield. “Newman told them to go down there and show him the photos, and make sure they tape-recorded it,” one source says. “He wanted to see the exact photos Ott and Keyser were going to show him.”
So Ott and Keyser headed for the jail, while everybody else went to the bar at Singing Hills. “It wasn’t a celebration,” says an insider. “Guys were just kinda winding down. People had been working nonstop on this thing, so they were having a drink, relaxing ... doing the cop thing.”