Alleged abductor of California teen killed in Idaho wilderness; captive rescued
(CNN) — James DiMaggio — the California murder suspect who allegedly kidnapped 16-year-old Hannah Anderson — was fatally shot Saturday by an FBI agent in the Idaho wilderness, authorities said.
Authorities first spotted the pair’s campsite from the air, then sent in law enforcement personnel on the ground, said San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore. An FBI tactical agent shot and killed DiMaggio, 40, during a confrontation about 5:15 p.m. (7:15 p.m. ET) near Morehead Lake, according to the sheriff.
The teenage girl was found alive near him.
“Hannah is safe, and that was our first priority from the very beginning,” Valley County, Idaho, Sheriff Patti Bolen said.
Hannah Anderson had last been seen at her cheerleading practice August 3; her mother and brother died in a fire at DiMaggio’s home in San Diego County the next day.
About 250 law enforcement personnel — among them about 150 FBI agents, in addition to state, county and other federal agents — had converged on the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness, about 15 miles outside Cascade, Idaho, and some 1,000 miles from where she went missing, looking for the teenage girl and DiMaggio, who’d been described as a friend of Hannah’s family.
In addition to guarding all ways out, they tried to cover about 300 square miles of rough terrain frequented by nature lovers near where DiMaggio’s car was found — hidden by brush and with its license plates removed — on Friday.
This came after a tip from earlier this week leading them to focus on the area of Idaho about 1,000 miles north of Southern California where the girl and her alleged abductor were from.
Shortly before DiMaggio’s death, Ada County, Idaho, sheriff’s office spokeswoman Andrea Dearden had vowed that authorities would “use every single resource possible.”
“Whatever they feel is most effective and most useful, that’s what they are going to use,” the spokeswoman said.
Hannah Anderson did not appear to have suffered any significant physical injuries, but nonetheless was helicoptered out from the rescue scene to a hospital, Dearden said.
Her father Brett will head to Idaho, where he will likely reunite with his daughter Sunday morning, according to Gore, the San Diego County sheriff.
Brett Anderson said that he was going through a range of emotions Saturday, upon hearing of his daughter’s rescue days after his wife and son’s death.
“It’s now healing time,” Anderson said via text.
As to Hannah’s alleged kidnapper, the sheriff had few details to offer late Saturday afternoon about how he was killed, beyond saying there had been a “confrontation.” At a news conference a short time later in Idaho, authorities declined to say whether there had been a shootout.
“Obviously we would have liked for Mr. DiMaggio to surrender and face justice in the court of law,” Gore said earlier. “But that’s not going to be the case.”
Witness: DiMaggio had crush
Sheriff’s officials in San Diego County had confirmed that 8-year-old Ethan Anderson perished in the house fire. The body of Ethan’s mother, Christina Anderson, had been identified earlier as a second victim.
A friend of Hannah Anderson on Saturday provided a clearer picture of the relationship between DiMaggio and the teen.
Marissa Chavez told CNN that she was in a car with Hannah and DiMaggio a few months ago when the 40-year-old told Hannah he had a crush on her.
He followed it up by saying if he was her age, he would date Hannah, Chavez said.
Hannah was unnerved by the comments, but did not tell her mother because she did not want to ruin the close relationship that her parents had with DiMaggio, Chavez said.
After that, however, Hannah did not want to be alone with DiMaggio, Chavez said.
In an earlier episode, Chavez recalled a trip that DiMaggio and Hannah took to Hollywood. The trip was supposed to be for one week, but Hannah told Chavez that they came back after two days because DiMaggio was upset that she wasn’t paying enough attention to him.
“I don’t think she would have gone willingly with him at all,” she said.
Focusing the search
The suspect’s car was found after a man on horseback reported he had a brief conversation with two campers in the Idaho wilderness on Wednesday. The rider’s realization later that he may have been talking to DiMaggio and his alleged teenage captive has been the biggest break in the search yet.
The horseback rider was not aware of the manhunt at the time, but he called the Amber Alert tip line after he saw a news account that night and realized the pair matched the description of DiMaggio and Hannah Anderson, according to Dearden.
The rider’s impression was that the pair “seemed odd,” though he wasn’t alarmed, she said.
“They did speak and exchange pleasantries. I don’t think there was a lot of information exchanged,” she said. “He left the conversation believing they were camping in the area.”
The rider said the man and girl were on foot, hiking with camping gear, Dearden said.
DiMaggio’s car — a blue Nissan Versa — was found unoccupied Friday, spurring authorities to intensify their search in that area even further.
Speaking late Saturday afternoon, Gore thanked the media for getting the word out on the case and the extensive law enforcement collaboration that culminated in DiMaggio’s death and his alleged captive’s recovery.
“It truly was a joint effort,” he said. “And I’m pleased to stand here today and say that Hannah was successfully rescued and appears to be in pretty good shape.”