On February 1st 2002, Danielle Van Dam goes to school as usual, she was a second grader at Creekside Elementary School in Sabre Springs.
Ruby Puntenney, her teacher, testified about Danielle’s activity this Friday 1st 2002.
Ruby Puntenney: One of the skills that second-graders are assessed in is the ability to write narrative, personal narrative. the last week in January we had been working on memories. and so I had given them two examples of writing. one was about a birthday party, which is very meaningful to them. and we had discussed after that as to what does — what makes this writing a good writing, how does it engage the reader, and so forth. and on another day I had given them an example of a writing, and it was about losing a pet. So on the Friday of that week I told the children that they were ready to — we were ready to allow them to work independently. so I had given them a pre-writing sheet. and on the pre-writing sheet the first question was what memory will you never forget or something like that. so many of the kids wrote about things that relate to them, birthday parties and so forth and who was involved in that activity and so forth.
And about thirty minutes before school was out and we were still doing the writing activity, a call from the office came and said that Danielle was being checked out of school. so I said to Danielle: Danielle, before you go, I want to see what you wrote. so when she came, she — I looked at her paper, and what she had written for her memory that she wanted to write was that when her grandma’s house was broken into. and I said to her, Danielle, that’s so sad. can’t you think of something happy to write about. and she said but that’s true, Mrs. Puntenney. so I said to her, okay, Danielle, you may write about this this time, but the next time you write about another memory, be sure you write about a happy one, okay. she said okay.
And then I had written a note, and I said please help Danielle finish this pre-writing sheet and bring it back on monday and send it with her. and then she left. and I told her Iwill see you on Monday.
Dusek: was she ever able to complete that?
Ruby Puntenney: I never saw the paper back because that monday never came.
Dusek: when you say check out of school, do you recall what that was for, why she was going to be checked out?
Ruby Puntenney: I only found out afterwards because when she was checked out, I said to her, Danielle, I didn’t know you were leaving early. and she said I didn’t know either. Because usually the kids in the morning will come and say, Mrs. Puntenney, I’m being checked out because I have a dental appointment and so forth, but she never said anything that morning. so she said she didn’t know. so I didn’t know. but then afterwards I found out why she was being checked out.
Dusek: and was that for a family trip?
Ruby Puntenney: yes.
mr. Boyce: objection.
Comments: The teacher gave an assignment to the kids asking them to relate an unforgettable memory, most kids related birthday parties but for Danielle Van Dam the unforgettable memory “was that when her grandma’s house was broken into”.
What happened to Danielle when the grand mother’s house was broken into, that she couldn’t forget? What don’t we know about Danielle ? What was Danielle’s state of mind on February 1st?
DANIELLE’S ACTIVITY FRIDAY AFTERNOON
Extract from Brenda Van Dam testimony:
Dusek: all right. so that Friday, do you recall what your activities were in the afternoon?
Brenda Van Dam: well, Damon was going to italy on business. and he asked me if I would like to bring the kids along for two weeks. So he was busy purchasing tickets, and I went and got the kids out of school early to get their passport photos.
Dusek: do you remember where you went?
Brenda Van Dam: I went to a photo shop in carmel mountain called Motophoto.
Dusek: then where did you go?
Brenda Van Dam: I went to Staples. I had to make some copies for my business.
Dusek: then where?
Brenda Van Dam: then we went to the post office.
Dusek: then where?
Brenda Van Dam: then we went to Mervyn’s.
Dusek: to do what?
Brenda Van Dam: Dylan had a birthday party to go to on saturday. and Danielle had a father-daughter dance that was planned for Thursday.
Dusek: of the following week?
Brenda Van Dam: yes.
Dusek: that would be a dance at school?
Brenda Van Dam: yes.
Dusek: what did you do at Mervyn’s?
Brenda Van Dam: Danielle tried on a lot of clothes. We were trying to find something special, for the theme and while she was trying on clothes, Dylan and Derrick walked over to the little toy shop right page outside of Mervyn’s and Derrick helped him pick a present.
Dusek: for the birthday party?
Brenda Van Dam: for the birthday party. while Danielle was trying clothes, I ran over and paid for the gift and brought the boys back. She was still in the dressing room changing. when we were finished, and she had decided on her gift, we paid and then we went home.
Dusek: so you actually bought a dress?
Brenda Van Dam: we actually bought an — ended up buying a sparkley shirt. the theme was be a star.
Dusek: from there, you went where?
Brenda Van Dam: home.
Dusek: can you estimate for us about what time you got home?
Brenda Van Dam: I’m thinking about 5:30.
Comments: Beside Damon and Brenda Van Dam there is no testimony concerning the business trip to Italy. According to Brenda Van Dam, Damon Van Dam was busy buying tickets. Where are the tickets? According to his testimony, he was at work, do they sell plane tickets at Qualcom? Brenda “got the kids out of school early to get their passport photos”. Is it that the photo session could not be done the day after, Saturday 2nd or any other day? Was there any impossibility to photograph Danielle on Saturday 2nd or later that Brenda was aware of on Friday 1st?
At this point of Danielle’s last day, it is around 5:30 pm.
DANIELLE’S ACTIVITY FRIDAY EVENING
Extract from Damon Van Dam testimony:
Dusek: do you remember about what time you came home?
Van Dam: around 6:00, 6:30.
Dusek: when you got home who was there?
Van Dam: the kids were there.
Dusek: do you know what they were doing?
Van Dam: I think — I think the boys were watching tv. I don’t know if Danielle was watching with them. they might have been playing, i’m not sure.
Dusek: Was your wife there?
Van Dam: When I first pulled up I don’t think she was there. I think it was soon afterwards she pulled back in.
Dusek: did she have dinner?
Van Dam: she had pizza, yeah.
Dusek: what happened?
Van Dam: we went in and had dinner with the kids, had pizza.
Damon testified that when Denise and Barbara arrived around 8:00 pm Danielle is sitting at the kitchen table
Van Dam: I believe around 8:00, before 8:00.
Dusek: who all came by?
Van Dam: Barbara and Denise.
Dusek: what happened when they first arrived?
Van Dam: I was playing video games with the boys and I went to the door and let them inside and said hello. Brenda was upstairs. I think that she had just finished her shower. she finished the shower and you could hear the water running from downstairs. I let them in, said hello, went back to playing video games with the boys and they sat down with Danielle in the table.
Dusek: in the kitchen area?
Van Dam: In the kitchen area.
Dusek: Did you hear or see what they were doing?
Van Dam: Not particularly. They were talking to Danielle and may or may not have eaten some pizza. I think Denise might have given them some pizza, I’m not sure.
Van Dam: Sometime after that Danielle had asked how to spell a few words, because as she reads a book and writes in the journal , she’s just learning to spell the words. So I helped her spell a few words, and she asked us to turn the tv down at one point because the video game was really loud. and at some point after that she moved to the chair, as I talked about earlier, in the other room. we played a little longer. At some time, a little before 10 o’clock, I asked that they go up and get ready for bed.
Dusek: this was a Friday night?
Dusek: When you sent them to get ready for bed did you go to assist them in any way?
Van Dam: When I first sent them up I turned the tv on and the video game off and let them do their thing, because they’re getting good at self-sufficiency. They brush their own teeth and get their own bed clothes on. So for five or minutes maybe they were up there alone. Then I went up to check on them. Danielle was reading to Dylan in his bed.
Dusek: In Dylan’s bedroom?
Van Dam: In Dylan’s bedroom, yeah. he was just getting to that learning to read stage, and she likes to help him learn to read. so I went in that bedroom, i asked her to go jump in her bed.
Van Dam: Putting them to bed. It was time to put them to bed. So I talked to Dylan for a minute, gave him a hug and a kiss good night, tucked him in. Went to Danielle’s room. She had already gotten under the covers and pulled the covers up on herself. said good night, gave her a hug, hug and kiss good night. Went to Derek’s room. I think he was on the floor reading a book, and I asked him to get in bed and not read for much longer. He’s the first up anyway every day, so we let him. So he got up in his bed, and I left the light on in his room and cracked their doors.
Dusek: Was there a routine or anything that you did when it got to be lights out time to leave the room?
Van Dam: Just tuck ’em in and give ’em a big hug. oh, and my favorite with her was she’d give me — the big squeezy hug. I don’t know how it started but she just — she was really strong and she’d give a real tight squeeze hug and I’d pretend to fall dead on her and go limp on top of her, and she’d just giggle and laugh and thought it was the funnies thing that she could squeeze so hard. and so that was her unique thing before getting tucked in to the night.
Comments: Danielle laughed and giggled when, while she was in bed, ROUTINELY her father pretended to fall dead on her an went limp on top of her… “She had already gotten under the covers and pulled the covers up on herself” The routine was so fun that Danielle needed to pull the covers up on herself on Friday February 1st…
This is all we know concerning the activity of Danielle for the last day she spent on this earth.