(Reuters) - Hannah Anderson, a 16-year-old California girl kidnapped by a man and taken to Idaho after he killed her mother and younger brother, said in a television interview that she considers herself a survivor who was raised to be strong.
The interview, which aired on Wednesday, comes just over a week after Anderson was rescued in the Idaho wilderness by FBI agents who shot and killed her captor, 40-year-old James Lee DiMaggio.
Anderson’s statements to NBC, in her first mainstream media interview since the ordeal, were aired on the network’s “Nightly News” as a snippet of a full interview to be shown Thursday morning on the “Today” program.
“In the beginning, I was a victim but now, knowing everyone out there is helping me, I consider myself a survivor instead,” Anderson told NBC News.
“My mom raised me to be strong,” she said.
Anderson is believed to have taken to the social media website ask.fm just days after her rescue to field dozens of questions from strangers about her kidnapping, but she has otherwise remained silent about what she endured.
In other developments on Wednesday, a spokesman for DiMaggio’s family said they want more answers from police and have considered seeking DNA tests to determine if DiMaggio was the biological father of Hannah Anderson and her slain 8-year-old brother, Ethan.
Family members of DiMaggio were trying to understand what could have prompted the computer technician to kill 44-year-old Christina Anderson and her son, Ethan, and set fire to his rural San Diego area home, which was discovered burning on August 4, Andrew Spanswick told Reuters in an interview.
Spanswick was a friend of both DiMaggio and his sister, Lora Robinson, and has acted as a spokesman for the DiMaggio family.
“Lora is in a position of extreme grief and distress and she’s looking for any sort explanation of how her brother could have changed from the person she knew into what he is accused of,” Spanswick said of DiMaggio’s sister.
The remains of Christina Anderson were found under a tarp in DiMaggio’s log-cabin-style home in Boulevard, about 25 miles east of San Diego, and an autopsy found she died from blunt force trauma to the head.
The badly burned body of Ethan Anderson was found in a different part of the wreckage than his mother.
DiMaggio was discovered with Hannah Anderson on August 10 at a mountain lake in the remote Idaho wilderness and was shot to death by an FBI agent during an operation to rescue the girl.
Police have described DiMaggio as a longtime friend of Christina Anderson who was treated like an uncle to her children Hannah and Ethan.
Spanswick said members of DiMaggio’s family had not made a formal request for DNA from Hannah or Ethan Anderson, but have raised the issue as they seek a fuller understanding of the events leading up to the murders and kidnapping.
A San Diego County Sheriff’s spokesman, Jan Caldwell, said on Wednesday that no requests had been made to the department for DNA from Ethan Anderson. Representatives of the Anderson family could not be reached for comment.
Caldwell said that sheriff’s investigators had confirmed that DiMaggio and Hannah Anderson were photographed in his car at 12:10 a.m. on August 4, some 20 hours before the house went up in flames.
Christina and Ethan Anderson were last seen alive on August 3 at their home in the San Diego community of Lakeside, and Hannah Anderson was picked up from a high school cheerleading event at Sweetwater High School in nearby National City that afternoon.
Authorities have not publicly discussed any possible motives for DiMaggio’s actions. A family friend has said the suspect developed an apparent infatuation with the high school girl that made Hannah feel uncomfortable.
Additional reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles and Chris Francescani in New York; Editing by Maureen Bavdek, Cynthia Johnston and Ken Wills