“The van Dams’ drug use and sexual preferences...well, it’s their life, it’s their choice. No matter what, they didn’t deserve what happened to them. David Westerfield, when I saw him on TV, he’s aged, he’s heavier and looks nothing like the man we all knew, who used to be tan. He was the fun guy in the neighborhood with all the toys, always washing them. Even all these months later, when we all talk about it, those of us who kind of knew him can never say in hindsight, ‘Yeah, there was this or that about him, something weird about him.’ There wasn’t. I’d say I’m acquaintances with both the van Dams and David Westerfield. I was called as a defense witness because I saw him on Saturday afternoon when he got back. I don’t know the van Dams well. Our sons play baseball in the same league. I bought cookies from Danielle the day before she was taken.
“We attended all the candlelight services, made meals to support them. This whole thing may have brought us closer together as a family and community. It’s made us more cautious, careful about everyday life. It hasn’t changed the way we live or things that we do. It has taken our innocence away, but we’re trying to move forward with our kids.
“I have heard that the van Dams might be moving after this is all over, but I don’t know. Who knows anything for sure?”
Gina Clapper, 42, is a travel consultant. Her auburn hair is up in a clip, and she wears a white short-sleeved tee with pedal-pushers. She’s in good shape and seems to be someone who’d always be willing to talk and offer a laugh.
“We got this house last November. I’m from the Bay Area. It’s wonderful here. We had barely driven the U-Haul into the driveway at night, and within ten minutes our neighbors were knocking on our door offering to help with anything we may need. We have great neighbors. They’re friendly, with lots of kids. The kids play at night; it’s just great. I’d say 70 percent are white; the rest are mostly Asian. Most are upper-middle class. Most kids are 12 and under. As for church, I think the elementary school has a church service on Sunday, and it seems to be growing, based on the number of cars I’m seeing there now.
“The average home is about 1800 to 1900 square feet. The rules here are things like, you’re not supposed to put your car in the driveway. Ours is there because our garage is too full of stuff. You can’t have certain screen doors, and you can’t leave your garage door open. Most of the cars you’ll see around here are SUVs, and I have a ’92 Toyota Paseo.
“We were only here a few months prior to what happened. But after Valentine’s Day we’ve had three parties around here, with fire pits in the driveways, cooking marshmallows, wine, fruit-and-cheese trays. Then there was an Easter-morning party. This neighborhood has always gotten together.
“The media hasn’t been around much since March. It was a zoo. Someone from a London paper wouldn’t leave me alone even though I had just moved here and knew nothing. You could hear generators all night long. I just went on with my normal life and didn’t let it affect me.
“My stress level wasn’t affected by what happened. At first I made sure I locked all my doors. I never used to do that before all this happened. I always kept my screen door unlocked. I do think this is an isolated incident. It could happen anywhere. It hasn’t hurt prices on homes. They’ve actually gone up, I think.
“The van Dam sex thing? I don’t really care what they do as long as what you do doesn’t harm anyone else. Drugs, if you have children, you have to instill values. You can’t tell kids ‘Don’t do drugs’ when you do drugs. It does impair your judgment. I wouldn’t do it myself, and I don’t even have kids. I think you need to set an example.
“The child-porn thing and Westerfield... you shouldn’t be doing it. I don’t know him, but I think it’s kind of sick. If he were looking at women on tape, that’s different. But kids? That’s different, that’s wrong. I’ve never spoken to him though, and I’ve never heard any gossip before all this happened about any of them.
“We did bring some flowers up to the van Dams and went to the website, and I forwarded Danielle’s photo when she was still missing to people I knew to make them aware of her, because I thought that might help. I also wrote to the van Dams on the Web.
“Nobody deserves to have a child taken away. I feel bad a child won’t get to grow up who deserved to. At first, before it happened, kids would walk alone to school. After it happened, parents would walk with their kids. Toward the end of the school year, there were lots of kids walking alone again.
Paula Call is a stay-at-home mom who used to teach literature. Considering that she has five kids, she’s in amazingly good shape. With her big, beautiful eyes and her sleek brown hair pulled back, it’s hard to believe her when she says she’s 36. Affectionate, she requests kisses almost every time one of her children walks by.
Her house looks like the Z Gallerie showroom, with iron candle holders, an antique Irish Bible on the coffee table, unusual flooring, and lots of framed hearts. It looks like a very cool decorator furnished it, but without taking away the comfort of a home. The home is tidy. Backpacks hang on neatly placed hooks in the garage, and the garage floor looks clean enough to eat from.
“We’ve lived here three years and came from L.A., the Newhall area. We lived in a friendly neighborhood before, and that’s why we chose this area. I have a problem saying the area is upper-middle class, because it sounds elitist. It’s very subjective. The kids here seem to be a little younger, teenagers too. Average home is about 2500 square feet. We do a little work on our yard every weekend. We go to church pretty regularly. We have a pool, so it’s pretty low maintenance. We have a 2000 Expedition, and you’ll see a lot of minivans and SUVs. The homeowners’ association won’t let cars stay parked on the street for very long, and you can’t paint your house without approval, because, God forbid, somebody painted one pink!