Damm takes the stand - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Damm takes the stand

GALENA, Ill. (KWWL) -- Accused of ordering the death of a 13-year-old girl in 2006, David Damm took the stand at trial this morning to tell his side of the story.

The 60-year-old car dealer from Waterloo was sworn in at 9:45 a.m. Wednesday capping two days of defense witnesses. Telling his own side of the story in court is something that has worked for Damm in the past.

KWWL's coverage partner, the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier, has reporter Jeff Reinitz in the courtroom covering the trial.

In 1976 Damm, then the sole full-time patrol officer in the town of Tripoli, took the stand to fight a rape charge.

A woman said he approached her in Waterloo, showed his badge and told her he was taking her downtown for a driving offense. He then drove her to a rural area and forced her to have sex, she told jurors.

On the stand Damm, then 28, said he talked to the woman earlier that night at the Mitchell Avenue sandpits, and they agreed to the arrest ruse to get her away from a man she was with.

He said the sex was consensual.

The jury acquitted Damm, but the case apparently scuttled his law enforcement career. He parted ways with the Tripoli department after he was found innocent, and he hasn't worked at another Iowa department since then, according to the Iowa Department of Public Safety.

Damm wasn't as successful during a 1996 bench trial where he testified to challenge a misdemeanor assault charge that stemmed from a road rage incident.

A magistrate found his testimony to be "extremely lacking in credibility," and he was ordered to pay $192 in fines and surcharges.

This time, the stakes are higher.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for Damm, who is charged with first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder and aggravated kidnapping. They allege he paid friend Bruce Burt, 59, $2,000 of a $5,000 agreement to make Donnisha Hill, the girl who lived across the street, disappear as a sexual abuse investigation loomed in October 2006.

The defense said Damm wanted Burt to drive Hill out of town to help her run away. They said the plan never involved murder and suggested a struggle between Hill and Burt erupted as he was coming down from a crack cocaine high.

Burt testified for the state as part of a plea agreement that kept him from execution. He said he ambushed the girl, beating to death with a hammer after driving to Illinois and helping her from the car on a rural driveway outside Galena.

Aside from Burt's account, the state showed jurors Wal-Mart surveillance video of the alleged hit man exiting a van similar to the one Damm drove. Burt bought an instant camera at the store on the morning of Hill's disappearance, and he said Damm suggested he use it to provide proof the hit had been carried out.

A mechanic for the used car lot Damm ran said he retrieved a wad of cash marked $1,600 at Damm's request the day after the slaying.

Records also show calls between phones registered to the two on the day before and the day of Hill's death.

The prosecution also has shown jurors some of the evidence that may have been used against him if the molestation charge had been levied. This included statements Hill gave to investigators and a semen-stained napkin she gave to her mother after her parents became suspicious Oct. 11, 2006.

Defense witnesses said Burt ran a crack house on Sumner Street, and attorneys claim he implicated Damm to save his own life.

Defense attorneys have emphasized that Hill's body was found with her jacket off and her shirt pulled up around her neck, which contradicted Burt's account of killing.

They also showed jurors a recorded interview with the person who loaned Burt the car and described potato chips littering the front seat --- possible signs of a struggle --- when it was returned.

Powered by Frankly