Hannah Anderson says she's a 'survivor' in first TV interview since kidnapping
Anderson: I texted with kidnapper, didn't call
Last Updated: 106 days ago
LAKESIDE, Calif. - The 16-year-old Lakeside girl rescued from a remote area in Idaho by the FBI after her abduction by a family friend who allegedly killed her mother and 8-year-old brother said in an interview broadcast Thursday that she considers herself a survivor, not a victim.
"In the beginning I was a victim, but now knowing everyone is out there helping me, I consider myself a survivor instead," said Hannah Anderson in an interview on NBC's "Today" show.
Hannah also said she was drawing on her mother's memory to get through the pain of losing her loved ones.
"She was strong-hearted and very tough," Hannah said of her mother. "She knew how to handle things."
When asked about her brother, Hannah broke down and cried as she described him as having a big heart.
Hannah was found in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness Area on Aug. 10, when her captor, James Lee DiMaggio, 40, was shot and killed by an FBI agent in an exchange of gunfire.
Authorities were tipped off to their location in the remote area about 80 miles northeast of Boise after a group of horseback riders spoke with them and later saw the Amber Alert on television and contacted local law enforcement. In her interview, Hannah said she didn't know people were looking for her and or what an Amber Alert was prior to her rescue. She thanked those horseback riders who heeded the Amber Alert and the law enforcement that ultimately rescued her.
Hannah had been missing since Aug. 3. Sheriff's spokeswoman Jan Caldwell said an image of Hannah and DiMaggio in his blue Nissan Versa was captured as it was being driven westbound through a U.S. Border Patrol checkpoint on Old Highway 80 in Pine Valley shortly after midnight Aug. 4.
About 20 hours later, a fire that authorities said was started using incendiary devices was reported at DiMaggio's home on Ross Avenue in Boulevard.
The bodies of Hannah's mother, Christina Anderson, 44, and 8-year-old brother, Ethan, were found in the burned-out log cabin-style house and garage.
Sheriff's officials said Hannah was unaware her mother and brother had died until after her rescue. Mother and son were expected to be buried this weekend.
A motive for the crimes has yet to be disclosed, though Anderson family friends have said DiMaggio had an infatuation with the teen.
According to search warrant records, Hannah exchanged 13 text messages with DiMaggio the day of her kidnapping. Hannah said in her interview that the messages were about where he could pick her up from cheer camp that day. Known as "Uncle Jim" to Hannah and Ethan, DiMaggio frequently helped the children's mother with the children after their father took a job out of state.
Search warrant records also showed authorities found letters between Hannah and DiMaggio as part of their investigation. Hannah said the letters were written about a year ago when she and her mother were not getting along, and that there was not "anything bad" in them. She said DiMaggio gave her advice on how to deal with the situation.
Earlier this week, DiMaggio's family revealed that he had left his life insurance policy to the children's paternal grandmother to be used for Hannah and Ethan.
"He stated he did not want it to go to their parents because they were having marital problems and he didn't trust them with the money on their own," DiMaggio family spokesman Andrew Spanswick said.
The family is not contesting the policy payout but is asking for a DNA test to the children were in fact his biological children.
Brett Anderson, Hannah and Ethan's father, said the claim was "ridiculous" because Ethan's body was identified using his DNA. A publicist for the family said that Christina Anderson was six months pregnant with Hannah when the pair first met DiMaggio.
It was unclear whether the DiMaggio family planned to force the issue in court.
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