SAN DIEGO (Reuters) - Police on Wednesday issued an Amber Alert in Oregon for two children missing since their mother was found dead in a burned-out San Diego home earlier this week, saying that the suspect’s vehicle had been spotted heading there from Northern California.
According to the Amber Alert, a statewide child-abduction notice, the blue 2012 Nissan Versa was seen on Wednesday afternoon heading northbound on Highway 395 from Alturas, California, near the Oregon border.
The alert did not say if suspect James Lee DiMaggio, 40, or either of Christina Anderson’s children were seen inside.
DiMaggio had been a close family friend of Anderson for two decades and was considered “like an uncle” to her children, said Lieutenant Glenn Giannantonio, the homicide detective overseeing the case for the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department.
Investigators have no evidence of a precipitating incident or circumstances that might have led to the crimes DiMaggio is suspected of committing, the detective said on Wednesday.
Anderson, 44, and her two children - 16-year-old Hannah and 8-year-old Ethan - were last seen Saturday evening.
The following night, the mother was found slain inside DiMaggio’s burned-out home in the desert community of Boulevard, California, east of San Diego, along with a dead child whose remains were burned beyond recognition. Authorities have not said how the mother was killed.
Giannantonio said it might take a day or two longer for medical examiners to positively identify the child and determine the cause of death. But investigators believe the remains, which are consistent with those of an 8-year-old, may be of Ethan Anderson, he said.
At this point, he said, there is no other child of that age whom investigators have linked to the case. But for now, investigators have not ruled out the possibility that DiMaggio abducted both Hannah and Ethan Anderson.
“We know we’re missing an 8-year-old and a 16-year-old,” Giannantonio said.
Anderson’s ex-husband and the children’s father, Brett Anderson, went on television on Tuesday to make a public plea to the suspect to give himself up and for his daughter to try to escape.
“Jim, I can’t fathom what you were thinking,” he said. “The damage is done. I’m begging you to let my daughter go. You’ve taken everything else.”
He also addressed the missing girl, saying, “Hannah, we all love you very much,” adding, “If you have a chance you take it. You run. You’ll be found.”
An Amber Alert was issued in California on Monday for both children, and authorities said DiMaggio was initially believed to be headed by car for Texas or Canada.
Earlier on Wednesday, Giannantonio said investigators had no clue as to the suspect’s intended destination. He said FBI agents have joined in the search and that Mexican law enforcement authorities and the U.S. Border Patrol also were on the lookout for DiMaggio.
“It’s very possible he could be hunkered down somewhere here in the county,” the detective told Reuters. “He’s something of an outdoorsman. He could be somewhere around here camping.”
Giannantonio said there has been no communication from DiMaggio, who made a living as an information technology worker, since he disappeared.
(This story is refiled to remove incorrect pictures from the version that was published on Aug.7)
Additional reporting by Steve Gorman and Dan Whitcomb; Writing by Steve Gorman; Editing by Cynthia Johnston, Cynthia Osterman and Jackie Frank