Memorabilia from the lives of San Diego’s most notorious killers is up for sale online and the disturbing business is upsetting the family of one murder victim.
Known as "Murderbelia," the items for sale include an original notarized apartment lease from San Ysidro McDonald’s mass murderer James Huberty, a signed letter from Cleveland Elementary School shooter Brenda Spencer, or a $30 signed Christmas card from David Westerfield, the man convicted in the 2002 killing of 7-year-old Danielle Van Dam.
"It’s just unbelievable, insulting and horrid. Disgusting frankly," said attorney Spencer Busby, who represented the Van Dam family.
Not wanting to relive the pain of her daughter's 2002 murder, Brenda Van Dam relayed her feelings about "murderabilia" from David Westerfield being sold online.
"She considered it an insult to her family that someone would attempt to profit off the death of her daughter," said Busby.
An online search now shows since NBC 7's first coverage of murderbilia on Nov. 15, David Westerfield items have been removed from a true crime collectible website.
However, the family attorney said the Van Dams are strongly considering filing a lawsuit after seeing drawings on the site that appropriated the likeness of their daughter, depicting her with her convicted killer.
Busby said he plans to keep site operators from profiting off the family's pain.
"We think their privacy has been invaded," said Busby. "We think we can establish negligent, if not intentional, infliction of emotional distress upon our clients."
The website "Dark Vomit," now defunct, is one of about half a dozen sites that has cashed in on crime over the years.
It was operated by a San Diego artist in the North Park neighborhood.
By text and email to NBC 7 the artist stated, in part, a "fascination for abnormal psychology" for becoming a "death dealer," noting people from all walks of life were his clients.
He said he "never once sold an item obtained directly from an inmate," because there are what are known as Son of Sam Laws against it.
The artist said his memorabilia came from fellow collectors or pen pals of the inmates.
Houston-based victim advocate, Andy Kahan, heads seminars on the issue across the country. He is credited with coining the term "murderabilia."
"We have to stop giving these types of killers from getting the infamy and immorality they don't deserve and give victims the dignity they deserve by shutting this industry down."
Kahan’s been crusading to keep people from pedaling the materials since he first spotted items selling on eBay in 1999.
When the site stopped selling "murderabilia," others filled the void.
Kahan said one of the largest dealers operates out of California.
"We did pass a bill in California about a decade ago. Frankly, it's words on paper that haven’t been enforced," said Kahan.
Though freedom of speech protects murderabilia sales, California is one of the states where it's against the law for felons to profit off the unseemly items.
But that hasn’t stopped others from making money off "murderabilia."
Kahan said he’s filed several federal bills to help protect families like the Van Dams.
But he has yet to receive a hearing.
"Think about how you’re making money and how it insults the family. Think of the pain it brings to the Van Dams. We recommend you stop. If there is some civil action we can make to make that happen we will," said Busby.
Westerfield was convicted of kidnapping and murdering Danielle Van Dam. He now sits on death row in San Quentin.
The San Ysidro McDonald's massacre occurred on July 18, 1984. A gunman opened fire inside the restaurant killing 21 people and injuring 19 others.
The "I Don't Like Mondays" school shooting took place on Jan. 29, 1979 when a 16-year-old girl opened fire with a rifle killing a principal and a custodian and injuring eight students. A police officer was also wounded. The shooter told police she didn't like Mondays.