Abducted California girl didn't know mother and brother were dead
SAN DIEGO (Reuters) - A 16-year-old California girl rescued in the Idaho wilderness after her suspected kidnapper was shot dead by the FBI was unaware until she was freed that her mother and brother had been killed a week earlier, the San Diego County sheriff said.
Hannah Anderson, who was left badly shaken by her ordeal, was informed while being debriefed by authorities after her rescue on Saturday that her mother, Christina Anderson, 44, and her 8-year-old brother, Ethan, had been killed by her alleged kidnapper, Sheriff Bill Gore said.
Addressing an afternoon news conference after the teenager had been reunited with relatives in California, Gore sought to dispel any notion that she might have willingly accompanied the suspect, James Lee DiMaggio, 40, a longtime, close friend of the Andersons.
"It became very clear to us that she is a victim in every sense of the word of this horrific crime," Gore said. "She was under extreme, extreme duress."
The girl's father, Brett Anderson, who has lived apart from his family in Tennessee, thanked law enforcement officials, the media and members of the public for their role in bringing his daughter home safely.
"The healing process will be slow. She has been through a tremendous ordeal, and I'm very proud of her," Anderson said.
Authorities have not publicly discussed any possible motives for DiMaggio's actions. But a family friend has said that the suspect developed an apparent infatuation with the high school girl that made Hannah feel uncomfortable.
Gore also revealed that Hannah had told authorities that DiMaggio was armed with a rifle and fired at least one round before being shot to death by an FBI agent in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness on Saturday.
He said further details of the deadly lakeside confrontation between DiMaggio and federal agents in the Idaho back country, about 90 miles northeast of Boise, would be withheld until the FBI completes its own review of the shooting.
Before she disappeared, Hannah, her brother and their mother were last seen on August 3. The following night, the mother, Ethan and a dog were found dead in the burned-out ruins of DiMaggio's cabin-style home in the rural community of Boulevard, California, about 45 miles east of San Diego.
Authorities suspect DiMaggio, an information technology specialist, set his house on fire before vanishing with Hannah, but they have not said how the two murder victims were killed.
It took medical examiners several days to positively identify the boy's remains, and authorities initially issued child-abduction Amber Alerts for both children in California, Oregon, Washington state, Nevada and Idaho as they pressed their search for DiMaggio.
The notice in California late on August 5 marked the first time such a message was disseminated to private cell phones and mobile devices statewide through a new Wireless Emergency Alert system administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Introduced by the same harsh electronic tone that precedes the broadcast of FEMA emergency radio tests, the August 5 alert startled many Californians, some of whom were awakened just before 11 p.m. to a smartphone alarm they had never experienced.
A break in the case came days later after a group returning from a horseback ride through the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness in Idaho told police that they had spotted DiMaggio and the girl backpacking there on Wednesday.
Investigators converging on the area found DiMaggio's car on Friday, and the following day U.S. marshals in a helicopter spotted the fugitive at a campsite, leading to his confrontation with FBI agents on the ground.
Sheriff's deputies said evidence gathered at the scene and from telephone and credit card records suggested that DiMaggio had been planning the abduction for weeks. For example, they said, he purchased camping gear several weeks earlier. They also warned the public that it appeared DiMaggio had built bombs or incendiary devices that he might rig to his car or hideout.
Authorities later said no booby-traps were found on his car.
Gore said a gray cat DiMaggio was seen holding when he was spotted by horseback riders in the woods was his own pet. The cat was ultimately recovered alive by the FBI.
Brett Anderson has said he was baffled by the actions of DiMaggio, whom he described as a trusted longtime friend considered an uncle by the children. A law enforcement source said DiMaggio served as the best man at Brett and Christina Anderson's wedding.
(Reporting by Marty Graham; Writing by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Steve Gorman and Lisa Shumaker)