Damon Van Dam’s testimony- II
based on transcript of Monday, June 5, 2002 – 1:30 pm
Dusek: mr. Van Dam, I think when we broke before lunch you had just explained the locking mechanism on the door leading from the garage to the house had been reversed.
Van Dam: yes.
Dusek: where are you when you can lock that door?
Van Dam: in the garage.
Dusek: and by locking it in the garage, you can prevent the people from inside the house to entering into the garage because of the lock?
Van Dam: correct.
Dusek: now, someone were inside the house and still wanted to get outside, would they be able to get outside in any other way?
Van Dam: they could unlock the door with a key.
Dusek: to get into the garage?
Van Dam: to get into the garage. they could unlock the front door and walk out. it’s not a key lock. or they can go out the back door.
Dusek: all right.
and i’m not sure I was clear enough on the alarm system in your house. does the alarm — what activates the alarm?
Van Dam: when a door is opened enough to throw a switch or window. with the sliding glass door you have to open the door over an inch, and it takes a moment for it to trigger after it gets open about an inch. and when the regular front door or garage door, side garage door, the door can be like halfway ajar and not be triggered. but when it’s open all the way, it will trigger the alarm. and then the windows are the same way, about an inch, half-inch.
Dusek: will the alarm be activated if the door is closed or window is closed but it’s not locked?
Van Dam: no.
Dusek: so the door actually has to be open to be activated?
Van Dam: right.
Dusek: how far would you say the doors have to be opened before the alarm system lights up?
Van Dam: triggers. the sliding glass door in the back has to be opened more than about an inch. we tested this after this whole thing and found that you can get about nearly an inch before it finally beeps and turns the light on. and then the front door, the door to the garage, and the door from the garage to the side of the house, you can get them about halfway ajar, which is the door halfway out of the jamb, and it won’t trigger. but once it gets, you know, by the time it’s all the way out of the jamb, it will trigger.
Dusek: and I think in a sequence of the events that evening, you had just gone out to the garage to make sure the outside door was locked when we took the break for lunch.
Van Dam: yeah. and that’s where I say i looked at it. and I saw that it was in a locked position, but I can’t be sure that the door was locked because it could have been slightly ajar or the latch had not caught.
Dusek: from the garage where did you go?
Van Dam: went back in, back upstairs to bed. yeah.
Dusek: did you check on the kids?
Van Dam: I didn’t check on the kids. I was tired and I didn’t think that the door being open was that important at the time.
Dusek: when you went back to bed, did your wife acknowledge your absence at all?
Van Dam: not that i recall.
Dusek: what’s the next thing that you remember after you got back to bed?
Van Dam: woke up the next morning.
Dusek: about what time?
Van Dam: around 8:00 o’clock.
Dusek: who was up first, you or your wife?
Van Dam: I was up first. I don’t remember whether she even woke up when i left the room that morning. when i went downstairs, Derek was already up.
Dusek: he’s the oldest boy
Van Dam: he’s oldest. he was watching t.v. I don’t recall specifically whether Dylan was up at that point or not. i kind of think he wasn’t. i asked Derek about breakfast and started to make him pop tarts. i started to make myself a waffle, and at some point either — Dylan was there. Dylan came down and he asked for pop tarts also. so I made a second set of pop tarts for Dylan also.
Dusek: your wife was where as far as you knew?
Van Dam: she was in bed as far as i knew.
Dusek: and where was Danielle as far as you knew?
Van Dam: in bed as far as i knew.
Dusek: was it unusual for her to sleep that late on a weekend?
Van Dam: no. the order we woke up was typical. Derek is usually first up. i’m usually second. and then Brenda and Danielle sleep late. and Danielle usually sleeps the latest in the house.
Dusek: once you got the breakfast going, what was the next thing that you remember?
Van Dam: I think i recall hearing Brenda get up upstairs. i’m not sure. talked with the kids a while, maybe watched t.v. i’m not sure. and Brenda came down in a short while.
Dusek: at that point did you know whether or not you guys were supposed to babysit anybody that morning?
Van Dam: I don’t recall whether Brenda had told me before or when she came down, but when she came down, i knew. she might have told me right then.
Dusek: when she got downstairs, what happened?
Van Dam: she told me that we had to watch Ryan and Christie at 9:00 or 9:30. they were coming over. that’s the neighbors from across the street children. they were going out somewhere. she started breakfast, i believe, got eggs out. I don’t think she started making eggs. I don’t recall now whether she was doing the dishes and i took out the garbage at this point or after we went back upstairs. but Brenda and i went back upstairs for a little while in our room, came back down. and maybe that’s when — i took the garbage out while she was doing the dishes. I know that.
Dusek: the garbage from where?
Van Dam: from the kitchen, which is in a garbage can, in a bag in a can next to the sink. took it out to the bin on the side of the house, through the garage door and the side garage door. and i believe it was locked at that time. but again I wasn’t really paying attention.
Dusek: do you recall when or if the kids from across the street came over?
Van Dam: around 9:00 or 9:30.
Dusek: you do remember?
Van Dam: specifically — i remember them coming over. I don’t remember the specific time.
Dusek: what happened when they arrived?
Van Dam: they started playing with the boys downstairs, and Christie, who’s Danielle’s friend, asked if she could get Danielle up. and Brenda said yes, she could go up to the room and get her up. but Christie was playing something with the boys and kept playing with the boys for a little while.
Dusek: did somebody eventually go look for Danielle?
Van Dam: since Christie kept playing with the boys, Brenda said i’ll just get her up. Brenda likes to go up and snuggle with her for a little bit to wake her up slowly.
Brenda went upstairs, and she yelled down: Damon, where’s Danielle.
Dusek: where were you?
Van Dam: I was downstairs somewhere. I don’t recall specifically.
Dusek: how clear is this part?
Van Dam: it gets very — it got frantic quick after this.
Dusek: when she yelled down what she did, what was the next thing that you remember happening?
Van Dam: I think i ran upstairs. we were checking everywhere we could check. we got very nervous quickly because we looked under beds and in other rooms where she should have been. i remember checking under the stairs. I remember going out to the side of the house, through the side door again, looking in the garage, and then going out the side door. I noticed the gate was open at that point. and I think at that point I went out to the front of the street and looked up and down the street and yelled her name.
Dusek: let me stop you there. You mentioned going out the side area.
Dusek: i’ve had marked, your honor, as court’s exhibit 24 another photo display board labeled at the top “Van Dam residence, side garage door.” it has five photographs labeled a through e. (photoboard containing five photographs marked trial exhibit number 24 for identification.)
Dusek: do you recognize what we have depicted there, mr. Van Dam?
Van Dam: yes. the side of my house.
Dusek: the door that’s depicted in photograph a, what does that lead into?
Van Dam: the other side of that is the garage, into the garage.
Dusek: and there appear to be two objects on the cameraman’s side of the door. what are those?
Van Dam: the blue one is a recycle garbage container; the black one is a garbage container.
Dusek: is that where you had taken the trash that day?
Van Dam: yes. put it in the black one.
Dusek: when you started looking outside for her, you mentioned a door that was open. Van Dam: the gate was ajar. it’s in picture d. this gate was ajar. it wasn’t open that far, though; it was probably only open about eight inches, just far enough that the wood at the top hadn’t — was apart.
Dusek: and you’re referring to photograph d on exhibit —
Van Dam: photograph d.
Dusek: — on exhibit 24.
Van Dam: yes.
Dusek: how close is that to the doorway that leads into the garage in photograph a?
Van Dam: maybe five or six feet.
Dusek: how easy is that door to open, that gate?
Van Dam: the gate is very hard to open. the wood swells. this top piece of wood contacts the other piece of wood, and they rub together as it closes so you have to push the latch up and at the same time pull very hard on the gate to get the wood to come apart.
Dusek: how long has it been that way?
Van Dam: since we moved in.
Dusek: the area where you took the trash out that day, is that depicted in either the receptacles in photograph a on 24?
Van Dam: yes. that’s the black receptacle in a and b.
Dusek: when you took the trash out that day, did you notice if that wooden gate was open?
Van Dam: no. only took the trash out.
Dusek: once you noticed the wooden gate was open, what did you do?
Van Dam: i’m not positive if i ran out in the street at that time, but I think i ran out and called her name up and down the street, looked up and down the street. I know when i went back in Brenda was on the stairway, halfway up the stairway. and she asked if she should call nine-one-one. and I told her she should.
Dusek: what was her emotional condition?
Van Dam: she was frantic.
Dusek: what do you mean by that? describe it for us.
Van Dam: she was very upset.
Dusek: what was she doing? if someone were to look at her, what would they see?
Van Dam: she was pale. I mean we were both trying to think about the next place to look and just both running around, shaking and very upset.
Dusek: do you know if she called nine-one-one?
Van Dam: yeah. I’m pretty sure. yeah, I do know she called nine-one-one.
Dusek: were you there when she did it?
Van Dam: she dialed it when she was on the stairs right after she asked me.
Dusek: what did you do?
Van Dam: at some — i went searching further. I don’t know if i went under the stairs then. I know i went at some point to the jacuzzi, to the storage shed around the side, back out front. and i got in the car to drive around the block. I know by the time i came around the block, —
Dusek: did you go around the block?
Van Dam: yes.
Dusek: what happened when you got around the block?
Van Dam: by the time i got around the block, there was a police car there. i’m not positive if it pulled up before i pulled around the block or was it just pulling up. but the police were there, so i stopped, pulled the car back in front of the house, and started talking to them.
Dusek: what happened at that point?
Van Dam: we talked to the police about it. the neighbors came out. we went to the neighbors’ house and asked if they had seen her.
Dusek: did you continue looking throughout the neighborhood?
Van Dam: for a while until the police asked to talk to us.
Dusek: at some point in time did the police ask to look through the house?
Van Dam: yes.
Dusek: how quickly did that happen?
Van Dam: I can’t — i have no idea of time.
Dusek: was it that morning?
Van Dam: oh, yes, that morning.
Dusek: at some point in time did they secure the house, keep you guys out?
Van Dam: yes.
Dusek: about when was that?
Van Dam: again it was that day. it was that morning. I don’t know when.
Dusek: how did you know that you could no longer go into the house?
Van Dam: I don’t even know. someone told me. I don’t know. there was a lot of neighbors out; there was a lot of police there. I was in a — not in a good state emotionally. mentally.
Dusek: what’s the next thing you remember?
Van Dam: we went over our neighbors’ house. the police were searching. we were calling everyone we could think to call. we didn’t. . .
Dusek: during the time that you discovered Danielle missing, did you use the vacuum cleaner?
Van Dam: no.
Dusek: did you vacuum the house?
Van Dam: no.
Dusek: did you clean or destroy any of the physical evidence that might be in the house?
Van Dam: no.
Dusek: how about your wife; did you see her do any of that while you were there?
Van Dam: I don’t remember specifically seeing her. I know when they let us back in I saw some of the ladies in the neighborhood cleaning the stairs. that’s when i asked that they close up Danielle’s room and not clean it. I don’t know who was cleaning what, though.
Dusek: that night, that saturday night, did you spend the night at your house?
Van Dam: no. we went back in that night.
Dusek: where did you stay?
Van Dam: Julie’s house across the street.
Dusek: how many nights did you spend over there?
Van Dam: I don’t know whether it was one or two.
Dusek: you can’t remember?
Van Dam: no. I was not in a good mental state.
Dusek: what family members spent the night with the neighbors?
Van Dam: of our family?
Van Dam: my wife, i, and the two boys.
Dusek: do you recall the point where you and your family were allowed to return to your house and reoccupy it?
Van Dam: that’s when i went in and they were cleaning the stairs. but I don’t know what — I don’t even know if it was sunday or monday. Dusek: how were you notified that you could go back to the house?
Van Dam: I think the police told brenda, and she told me. they might have told me. I don’t know.
Dusek: did you have any conversation with the officers before you resumed occupancy of the house?
Van Dam: I don’t know whether it was I or Brenda who asked. I know we discussed it that if they were sure that they had gotten enough stuff, that we didn’t think we should go back in. but they said they were sure that we could go back in.
Dusek: when you went back to your house, what was going on?
Van Dam: that’s when there was ladies cleaning the stairs. and I asked them to close up Brenda’s — or close up Danielle’s room and not go in.
Dusek: did they stop?
Van Dam: they didn’t stop cleaning the stairs, but I was told Danielle’s room was closed. and some time after that i got the gate, put it up.
Dusek: why did you do that?
Van Dam: so no one would step foot in the room.
Dusek: the police had already told you that they didn’t need the room any more, didn’t they?
mr. feldman: asked and answered. objection.
the court: overruled. you can answer.
the witness: yes. they told us that, but I didn’t — I knew my —
mr. feldman: no question pending. objection.
the court: no question pending. it’s been answered. sustained. new question, please.
Dusek: why did you do it?
Van Dam: I was worried that there was evidence in there because i knew something bad had happened.
Dusek: in the photographs, on exhibit 23, the barrier or barricade that you put up, is that visible in any of those photographs?
Van Dam: yes. in photographs a, b, and c, that’s the barrier.
Dusek: what was it that you put up?
Van Dam: it’s a dog gate. and I think the boys made the little sign that said do not enter.
Dusek: in fact, after the officers told you that you could resume occupancy of the house, did they come back looking for more stuff?
Van Dam: yes, they did.
Dusek: do you remember about when?
Van Dam: it was — my life was a blur for a long time after that.
Dusek: do you know what they came back and got, if anything?
Van Dam: they did a lot of stuff in Danielle’s room. they took the closet doors from Danielle’s room. they took the closet doors from the office. they took a piece of wall. they did chemical tests in Danielle’s room where they would be in there all day with lights and chemicals. I don’t know exactly what it is. they came back and re-printed — as a matter of fact, at the beginning you were asked when we were let back in. I walked around the house, and i noticed they hadn’t printed the windows. and i asked they come back and print all the windows and all the glass around the house, which they did later that day. again I don’t know if it was the second or third day. and then they cleaned the windows, and they came back again. they came back again, a few days later, and did the windows all again, after they had cleaned them. I don’t understand that one.
Dusek: all right. Were any of the walls destroyed?
Van Dam: yeah. one of the walls by the entryway they took a couple chunks of it.
Dusek: took the drywall actually?
Van Dam: yeah. the drywall and studs.
Dusek: did you place any limitations on what they could take from your house?
Van Dam: none at all. we encouraged them to take whatever they needed.
Dusek: how about the items in Danielle’s room; did you place any limitations on what they could do or take from that room?
Van Dam: none at all.
Dusek: did they ask for samples from you, your wife, and your kids?
Van Dam: yes.
Dusek: did you provide them?
Van Dam: yes.
Van Dam: because i wanted them to get whatever evidence they needed to find the person who did it.
Dusek: did they take samples from your dog?
Van Dam: yes.
Dusek: what did they take?
Van Dam: I wasn’t there, but they said they wanted —
mr. feldman: objection. speculation. no foundation.
the court: sustained. you need not answer, sir. next question, please.
Dusek: does the dog have a name?
Van Dam: Layla.
Dusek: how do you spell that?
Van Dam: l-a-y-l-a.
Dusek: was there a time before, some time before Danielle was taken that layla started to bleed?
Van Dam: some time before; I don’t know how long before. can i lead into this with why i remember it so well?
Dusek: do you remember this event?
Van Dam: i remember the event. i guess — i play with Layla in the backyard. she’ll run around the swing set, then she’ll run down the side of the house. and i’ll hide around the opposite corner of the house and jump out at her to scare her, to get her pumped up. because she likes running around. so i jumped out when she had run up the side of the house. I was hiding around the corner in the backyard. and i jumped out in front of her. we do this often. and usually she’ll go around one side or the other or go between my legs. but this time she hit her nose right into my shin, and I sustained a previous softball injury there that —
Dusek: chin or shin?
Van Dam: shin. shin bone. and my shin hurt a lot. and her nose got that same spot in my shin and hurt me a lot. and she started bleeding.
Dusek: are you able to estimate for us about how much before Danielle’s disappearance this happened?
Van Dam: a week to two weeks.
Dusek: the dog started to bleed?
Van Dam: yeah. the dog bled from the nose for a while. we kept her out for a while. when we let her in, she bled on the family room carpet some, so we put her out again until it stopped.
Dusek: at some point after these events, did you repaint the house?
Van Dam: after — recently it’s been repainted, yes.
Van Dam: because it was pretty much destroyed from the fingerprint dust.
Dusek: did you do anything with regards to the carpeting?
Van Dam: all the carpet’s been changed in the house. Dusek: why?
Van Dam: it was also destroyed by fingerprint dust.
Dusek: i have one photograph here that’s been marked as court’s exhibit 25. it states “Van Dam residence, side yard” at the top, with three photographs on it, labeled a, b, and c.
(photoboard containing three photographs marked trial exhibit number 25 for identification.)
Dusek: can you tell us what we have depicted here, mr. Van Dam?
Van Dam: actually this is the corner of the house where Layla and I had our little crash. but in photograph a this is the corner where the concrete walk leads up — and further up here is the garbage cans and the gate that leads out to the front drive and the street.
Dusek: that would be at the far end of the photograph a?
Van Dam: yes.
Dusek: and the photographs down in b and c, what do they show?
Van Dam: this is the sidewalk shown in a, closeup of the sidewalk shown in a.
Dusek: those are two portions of the walk along the side of the house?
Van Dam: yes.
Dusek: there appears to be a line, a dark line, running along kind of the center of that sidewalk. do you see that?
Van Dam: are you talking about the dividing line here?
Dusek: no. The line that looks like a faint line running from side to side on the sidewalk.
Van Dam: okay.
Dusek: do you see that?
Van Dam: yes. there were streaks there.
Dusek: how long has that been there?
Van Dam: I don’t know.
Dusek: go ahead. i’m sorry.
Van Dam: the dirt is typically scattered, the dog will dig a little bit in the little slope here. so the dirt will become scattered across the walk. and apparently it had been — something had slid across it.
Dusek: would either of your boys have to take the trash out?
Van Dam: yes. on occasion they take it out.
Dusek: do they go that way or do they go through the house?
Van Dam: sometimes one, sometimes the other.
Dusek: do you know if they are able to carry the trash or if they drag it?
Van Dam: it depends how full it is. if they have to drag it, they will go this way. sometimes they will carry it this way also.
Dusek: thank you, sir.