By Miriam Raftery
August 12, 2013 (Lakeside) – Details are emerging about the dramatic rescue Saturday of Hannah Anderson, the 16-year-old Lakeside teen abducted by James Lee DiMaggio, a 40-year-old family friend. Hannah is safe and being reunited with her family after being found in the Frank Church Wilderness in Idaho, an area also known as the River of No Return.
According to San Diego Sheriff Bill Gore, Hannah was taken against her will and did not know about the tragedy that befell her mother and brother, who were found dead in a fire at DiMaggio’s Boulevard home. Authorities have found that Hannah’s mother, Christina Anderson, was murdered by being struck on her head. DNA tests identified a second body as that of 8-year-old Ethan Anderson.
"It is clear from information we have received that she was under extreme duress. She was taken out of the county, out of the state, clearly against her will," said Gore in an interview with 10 News.. "She has lost her mother and her brother, which she was not aware of until she was recovered up in Idaho... She didn't know."
According to Sheriff Bill Gore, DiMaggio was killed in a shoot-out after he fired at least one shot at deputies, 10 News reports.
A friend of Hannah’s has said that she was “creeped out” by DiMaggio, who said he had a “crush” on her. She had recently been trying to avoid being alone with DiMaggio but did not tell her parents of her concerns.
An Amber Alert was issued after her disappearance sparking a search across multiple states, Mexico and Canada. The alert had not yet been extended to Idaho, however, and it was a tip from a group of horseback riders that broke open the case.
One of those horseback riders was a retired Idaho Sheriff. The riders have reported that Hannah seemed scared. DiMaggio told the group that he and Hannah were hiking to the Salmon River, but they were going in the wrong direction. They had newly-purchased camping gear too light for the weather and conditions, and had pitched the tent on a ridge line, a dangerous location due to lightning. They also had a grey cat.
After seeing a news story later about the Amber Alert, one of the hikers alerted authorities, who found DiMaggio’s car hidden under a mound of branches. A massive manhunt ensued including searchers on foot, on horseback, and by air.
In Idaho, authorities have stated that they waited until Hannah was separated from DiMaggio to confront him. According to Sheriff Gore, DiMaggio had a shoulder-mounted weapon and fired at least one shot before he was shot and killed.
Authorities had feared that DiMaggio could have explosives. A friend of DiMaggio’s had speculated that he may have intended to commit suicide following in the footsteps of his father, an ex-con who served time for assault and later vanished after a second bizarre incident in which he briefly held hostages including the daughter of his girlfriend. DiMaggio reportedly set fire to his home on the anniversary of his father’s disappearance and died on the anniversary of his father’s suicide.
Hannah was taken to a hospital in Idaho for evaluation and has now been reunited with her father, Brett Anderson. Though mourning the loss of his wife and son, Hannah’s father has expressed relief that “something good came out of something indescribably horrible” and that now is a time for healing.