“When everything happened, my baby was just one month old. She was a great sleeper, but I wanted her in our room. I had a hard time putting her in her crib after what happened. It didn’t affect my dream life, and I know it could have happened anywhere and to anyone. The media coverage was...well, the jokes, like calling it ‘Sabre Swings’ or ‘Swing Sabres’ or whatever, was hard. When people asked where you live, you did not want to tell them.
“When it all happened I woke up to helicopters circling, saying, ‘There’s a missing girl’; and I heard the neighborhood kids yelling for Danielle. We opened our common space so the kids could walk by.
“The van Dams’ lifestyle didn’t really bother me. Everyone has their own lifestyle. There was a missing girl, and who really cares about anything else? I think there was too much focus on the van Dams. Brenda did a fantastic job of taking the media off her and putting it on what was important. We took flowers up, signed the book, and prayed for them. We would never consider moving.
“Neighbors have said that they had heard the van Dams had talked to people who were looking at the Westerfield house, but I haven’t heard it from any realtors. And you know what? If that had happened to me, I don’t know that I wouldn’t do the same thing.”
Cheryl Betyar, One Source Realty, says she’s the number-one realtor in Sabre Springs and has been the top agent for the area since 1994. “We’ve sold 12 to 13 houses this year in Sabre Springs. Last year, for the whole year, we sold 12 homes. We’ve already met all our sales for that area. The entry-level home is now about $425,000. Last year it was about $375,000. The smallest homes are about 1300 square feet, with the largest at 4400 square feet.
“I think the only thing the van Dams did was bring heightened awareness to the area. It’s a great enclave of homes. The demo is people making about $120,000 to $150,000. There’s cultural diversity. Twenty-five percent work in the high-tech industry, the FBI, police, in Sorrento Valley for places like Nokia, Qualcomm. The average age is about 35 to 40.
“I did hear of something like the van Dams talking to people who were looking at the Westerfield house. One agent told me her client was talked to by the van Dams. By law, whenever a death has occurred in a home, you must disclose it for three years afterward. The seller’s agent of that house wants to make sure potential buyers know whose property it was.
“I’ve shown it to two clients. Both said, ‘We understand, and we still want to see it.’ One said they didn’t like the floor plan; the other, the wife was okay with it, but the husband said he wasn’t okay after what happened there.
“The property-owners’ association does have some basic rules, like you can’t run a business from home, and you can’t run auto work from home. Fences have to be preapproved, and you can’t change the color of your home. It’s all to keep the neighborhood looking as nice as it does.”
Barbara Crum, 44, has three boys, aged 9, 12, and 17. Her husband is in the military. She sports a perfect Ban de Soleil tan, flawlessly styled blond shoulder-length hair, and wears denim shorts and a blue-and-white Hawaiian-print tank top. She’s a middle-aged Gidget Goes Hawaiian. Her two Lhasa apsos, Reggie and Rocky, bark only a few times until she tells them to stop, and they do so on command. Bikes line her front yard as her boys come and go with their friends, who act as if the house were their own. Her automatic lawn sprinkler goes off right on time while we talk.
“We’ve been here eight years and moved here from Newport, Rhode Island. It’s incredible here. We love it and don’t plan to leave anytime soon. It’s a friendly, great community, where everyone knows everyone. It is safe, contrary to what’s happened. It’s just a fun place. The girls walk every morning.
“What happened to the van Dams has been a tough lesson to learn. It helps that the school is close by and that everyone watches out for everyone else’s kids. We do all hang out together, with block parties and things. We play Bunco as a group, we drink wine; it’s just a very close community and cul-de-sac.
“It is diversified. We have a lot of Asian people. Mostly middle-class people live here with kids in elementary school through middle school. Most people’s homes on this street are between 2000 and 2500 square feet. The rules for living here are through the homeowners’ association, and you have to have a certain color of doors, no changing the exterior color of your house. You have to have approval to build a pool.
“We drive a ’97 Dodge minivan. An SUV is probably the average car you’ll see around here.
“It’s very friendly here. It was and is a close community before all this happened. All the kids play sports together. I’m the Little League president, and one of my sons plays with Derek van Dam in the same league.
“It certainly affected my children. They know David Westerfield and the van Dams. It probably affected my nine-year-old the most. But it has affected all of us and how we think, every day. It’s hard to reteach trust. My nine-year-old had problems and had to talk to a counselor. We’re more cautious, and we used to take for granted how safe it was here. You never think it will happen because this is the perfect place to live, and now you hold everyone a little closer. The dream hasn’t changed. We hope to stay here forever, or at least a while.
“The media coverage did impact us during it all. The San Diego local media was at least respectful. The national and L.A. media were more aggressive. One reporter even came into our garage! They were here nonstop for weeks. We stayed inside more, didn’t hang out in the front yard like we used to, and we played in the back yard instead. We got strength from each other in the area. We knew we’d all get through it together.