Suspect in Idaho shootout fired once or twice
SAN DIEGO (AP) — A close family friend suspected of abducting a 16-year old girl after killing her mother and younger brother fired his rifle at FBI agents before they killed him deep in the Idaho wilderness, authorities said Monday.
Hannah Anderson didn’t know her mother and brother were dead until she was rescued from 40-year-old James Lee DiMaggio, San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore said.
“I can’t make it any clearer: She was a victim this case. She was not a willing participant,” Gore said at a news conference with Hannah’s father, Brett Anderson.
During a shootout with the FBI, DiMaggio fired at least once and perhaps twice, the sheriff explained.
Hannah Anderson reunited with family in San Diego to begin what her father said would be a slow recovery. He thanked the horseback riders who reported seeing the pair near an alpine lake, saying the search might have taken much longer without them.
“She has been through a tremendous, horrific ordeal,” said Brett Anderson, who declined to answer questions and pleaded for privacy.
Christopher Saincome, Hannah’s grandfather, said his son-in-law wanted to take Hannah with him to Tennessee, where he recently moved. Saincome told him that she should stay in the San Diego area, where she was raised and has a large circle of friends.
“I think she needs to be here with friends,” Saincome said. “I know she’s taking it very tough. One of her best friends is with her, talking to her.”
Gore declined to address how Hannah’s mother and brother died, describe Hannah’s captivity or say whether she tried to escape. The sheriff also refused to discuss the rescue or how many times DiMaggio was shot, other than to say the suspect is believed to have fired first and that Hannah was nearby.
Gore said the crime was “not spur of the moment” but would not elaborate. Sheriff’s Capt. Duncan Fraser said last week that investigators believe DiMaggio may have had an “unusual infatuation” with the girl.
DiMaggio is suspected of killing 44-year-old Christina Anderson and 8-year-old Ethan Anderson and leaving their bodies in his burning home near San Diego on Aug. 4. Hannah’s disappearance triggered a massive search in much of the Western United States and parts of Canada and Mexico that ended with Saturday’s shootout and rescue.
A DiMaggio family friend, Andrew Spanswick, said the suspect appears to have followed in his father’s footsteps in a carefully laid plan. His house burned down exactly 15 years after his father disappeared. Saturday’s shootout came exactly 15 years after his father committed suicide.
The younger DiMaggio “clearly had a death wish,” Spanswick said.
The father, James Everet DiMaggio, was arrested after breaking into the home of his ex-girlfriend in 1988, wearing a ski mask and carrying a sawed-off shotgun and handcuffs, Spanswick said. The former girlfriend wasn’t home, but DiMaggio held her 16-year daughter and her boyfriend at gunpoint. The girl escaped after asking to use the bathroom.
The elder DiMaggio was later imprisoned for a separate attack and died in 1998 after consuming a large amount of methamphetamine intravenously and walking into the desert.
The massive search for Hannah Anderson probably would have taken longer if not for a sharp-eyed retired sheriff and three other horseback riders in the rugged backcountry hadn’t seen the pair Wednesday. Gore called it the “key event” in the search.
Mark John, who retired as a Gem County sheriff in 1996, shared his suspicions with the Idaho State Police after encountering DiMaggio and the girl on the trail. That enabled investigators to focus efforts on a specific portion of the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness, a roadless 3,600-square-mile preserve in the heart of Idaho.
“They just didn’t fit,” said John, 71. “He might have been an outdoorsman in California, but he was not an outdoorsman in Idaho. ... Red flags kind of went up.”
Initially, it was the lack of openness on the trail and a reluctance to engage in the polite exchange of banter like so many other recreationists John has encountered during horseback excursions.
The riders were puzzled why Anderson and DiMaggio were hiking in the opposite direction of their stated destination, the Salmon River.
But more than anything, it was their gear — or lack of it. Neither was wearing hiking boots or rain gear. DiMaggio, described as an avid hiker in his home state of California, was toting only a light pack. It even appeared Anderson was wearing pajama bottoms.
The riders had a second encounter Wednesday, this one at the lake as they were getting ready to head back down the trail.
But it wasn’t until Thursday afternoon when the Johns returned home and saw the girl’s photographs on the news that they made a connection and notified police.
On Friday, police found DiMaggio’s car, hidden under brush at a trailhead on the border of the wilderness area. A day later, searchers spotted the pair by air, and two FBI hostage teams moved in on the camp at Morehead Lake, about 8 miles (13 kilometers) inside the wilderness border and 40 miles (64 kilometers) east of the central Idaho town of Cascade.
Rescue teams were dropped by helicopter about 2 1/2 hours away from where Anderson and DiMaggio were spotted by the lake, said FBI spokesman Jason Pack. The team had to hike with heavy tactical gear along a rough trail characterized by steep switchbacks and treacherous footing.
DiMaggio was extraordinarily close to the family, driving Hannah to gymnastics meets and Ethan to football practice.
Associated Press writers Julie Watson in San Diego, Tami Abdollah in Los Angeles, and Rebecca Boone in Cascade, Idaho, contributed to this report.