1994 – Amanda Mary Dougherty, the copycat murder

Fort Lauderdale 1994 – Amanda Mary Dougherty – The copycat murder

Amanda Mary Dougherty, a lovely 5-year old little girl known as “Mandy” disappeared from her parent’s home in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, sometime after midnight on September 22, 1994.

She was reported missing early in the morning. There is no explanation for Mandy’s disappearance.

The little girl was last seen asleep in bed by her father around midnight and the next morning around 6 am when he went to wake her, he found an empty bed.

At home this very night were Mandy’s parents, her young brother and two pit bull dogs.
No traces of housebreaking were found. The two pit bulls guarding the Dougherty’s house added to the mystery. These dogs are known to be very protective, too vigilant to allow intruders into the house…and not even a bark or noise made while Mandy was taken away.

These dogs, like Layla the Van Dam dog, witnessed what happened that night, but, dogs can’t talk.

Mandy’s nude tiny body was discovered in a shallow waterway a few days later. She had been strangled, a wire twisted around her neck. Investigators said she had been killed shortly after she disappeared.

Mandy’s father was unable to recognize the bloated and decomposed body of his little daughter. Officials had to get an X-ray taken two years previously to finally positively identify the body.

Police concluded the killer knew Mandy, her family, their house and was familiar with the two pitt bulls.

Eight years later, Mandy’s death is still unexplained, the crime is still unsolved.

Does this story sound familiar?

A little girl that disappeared from her bed at night while the rest of the family slept, silent dogs, no trace or evidence anyone ever entered the house, a little body found so decomposed that X-rays were needed to make a positive identification.

It is familiar because, in my eyes, Danielle Van Dam’s crime is the copycat of Amanda Dougherty’s murder.

Amanda was found with a wire around her neck, around Danielle’s neck was her necklace.
Both bodies were so decomposed that immediate, positive identification was impossible. In both cases the last person to see the little girl alive was the father.
None was ever arrested for the kidnapping and murder of Amanda Dougherty.

Statistically speaking, I believe it is impossible to find such similarity with two crimes and here, we have a perfect replica: two little girls kidnapped at home in the middle of the night while the family is asleep, while dogs are present and while absolutely no sign of housebreaking can be found.

We are all aware of other little girls being kidnapped but their circumstances were different.
When the kidnapping happened at home, the little girl was not alone, witnesses were left behind like in Poly Klaas’s case or, the little girl is kidnapped outside, picked up by a sick pedophile.

The dictionary defines copycat as: “One that closely imitates or mimics another”.
Amanda and Danielle’s murders are not a “close” imitation, both abductions happened in the same exact circumstances. They are different crimes seemingly committed the same way.

Both cases left us with the same unanswered major questions :
_How did an intruder enter the house despite the presence of family and dog(s)?
_Who knew the house well enough to find the little girl’s bedroom without hesitating?

Danielle’s case being such an apparent copycat cannot be a simple coincidence. To me, the only plausible explanation is that whoever was involved in Danielle’s death, was aware of Amanda’s murder. Aware enough to put up the same story.

News and reports show that in 1994, Amanda’s story was the case capturing South Florida’s attention with hundreds of police officers, firefighters and volunteers searching for the little girl. It is hard to believe that someone with Florida roots, especially in Fort Lauderdale, didn’t know all these details, thus allowing the perfect replication, including even the dog!

Brenda and Damon Van Dam are Florida natives. In 1994, Damon’s mother lives in Fort Lauderdale.

I believe Amanda’s story could very well be the source of inspiration to explain Danielle’s story.
David Westerfield has no connection to Florida.

1981 - Adam Walsh