SD County Sheriff says Hannah Anderson is 'victim in every sense of the word'
Father thanks law enforcement, asks for privacy
Last Updated: 114 days ago
SAN DIEGO - The father of a Lakeside teen who was rescued in Idaho last weekend after being kidnapped by a family friend who also allegedly murdered her mother and younger brother asked the public Monday to grant his family privacy while his daughter recovers from her "tremendous, horrific ordeal."
"Now it's time for us to grieve and move on to the healing process," Tennessee resident Brett Anderson said at an afternoon news conference, during which he also praised law enforcement agencies for safely returning his 16-year-old daughter, Hannah, to him and thanked the media for publicizing the urgent search for her.
Anderson implored the throng of news crews gathered for the briefing outside sheriff's headquarters in Kearny Mesa "to give me, all of our family and our friends the respect and the time to allow this (recovery) to happen."
"As for my daughter, the healing process will be slow," the father said. "She has been through a tremendous, horrific ordeal."
He also urged the public to closely heed missing-child alerts, which he credited for leading authorities to his daughter and her abductor, 40-year-old James Lee DiMaggio of Boulevard, a longtime close friend to her family.
The girl, who went missing Aug. 3, only learned of the murders of her mother, 44-year-old Christina Anderson, and 8-year-old brother, Ethan, when her rescuers told her after an FBI agent fatally shot DiMaggio during an exchange of gunfire in Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness Area late Saturday afternoon, San Diego County Sheriff's Bill Gore said during the news conference.
A day after Hannah disappeared, the badly burned bodies of the woman and child were found along with the remains of their family dog in the embers of DiMaggio's fire-gutted log cabin-style home in Boulevard. Investigators believe the suspect torched the house and a detached garage before fleeing with the girl.
The causes of Tina and Ethan Anderson's deaths have not been determined.
Authorities began looking for Hannah and the suspect -- whom she had known her entire life -- in the 2.3-million-acre wilderness preserve in the northwestern United States after four people riding horses there reported that they had talked to a man and a teenager who matched their descriptions.
DiMaggio's blue 2013 Nissan Versa was found hidden in brush Friday morning about five miles from where the riders had come across the pair two days earlier.
Deputy federal marshals in a helicopter spotted DiMaggio at a campsite near Morehead Lake, about 80 miles northeast of Boise, leading to the deadly shooting.
Gore said Hannah was in close proximity when DiMaggio was shot and killed. He added that investigators indicated DiMaggio fired his weapon first.
Authorities have disclosed no suspected motive for the crimes, but family friends told reporters that DiMaggio seemed to have developed an infatuation with the teenager, a change that made her uncomfortable.
The sheriff told reporters the girl had been subject to "extreme duress" while being held against her will by the suspect.
"During the law enforcement interview with Hannah, it became very clear that she is a victim in every sense of the word in his horrific crime," Gore said.
The teenager was in "close proximity" to DiMaggio when he fired a rifle toward law enforcement personnel in the Idaho wilderness, prompting one of them to return fire, according to Gore. She appeared to be physically unharmed following her rescue.
"She is doing as well as could be expected after the terrible ordeal she's been through," the sheriff said.
In addition to thanking "all of the branches of the law enforcement involved in their quick actions and professionalism in all aspects of this investigation," Hannah's father expressed gratitude to the horseback riders who reported their fortuitous chance encounter with Hannah and DiMaggio.
"For without you, who knows how long this would have gone on," he said. "My family and I are eternally grateful."
He also acknowledged "all who spread the word, (and) shared their hearts and thoughts through social media across the country," he said.
"Because of you, this reached across and beyond the U.S.," Anderson said. "Have no doubt that this did make a difference."
The father urged the public to make use of child-abduction notifications, which he credited for leading authorities to his daughter and her captor.
"(In this) country, there are many missing children, and though ... some of you might find the Amber Alert annoying, please, pay attention," Brett Anderson said. "Keeps your eyes open. Let's bring those children home. No one should have to go through this."
The sheriff declined to reveal details of what happened between the teenager and DiMaggio during the abduction and would not discuss what might have motivated the deceased suspect, though he did say he did not believe the crimes were "spur-of-the-moment."
"We might never know some of these answers -- I think it's important to realize (that) now," Gore said during the briefing. "When you get a completely irrational act like we've seen here with two murders and a kidnapping, sometimes you're not going to be able to come up with a rational explanation of what happened."
After the briefing, Gore spoke to 10News reporter Vanessa Van Hyfte.
Vanessa Van Hyfte asked Gore, "What did DiMaggio say to Hannah to force her to come along?"
Gore responded, "When I say she was under duress, she was under extreme constant duress if she didn't cooperate."
"Did he threaten to kill her?" asked Van Hyfte.
Gore replied, "Yes. Severe threats were made if she didn't cooperate with him."
Gore said Hannah was flown home in a private jet with the FBI, her father and local sheriff personnel.
Sheriff Bill Gore's full statement from Monday's briefing:
I want to emphasize that during our law enforcement interviews with Hannah, it became very clear to us that she is a victim in every sense of the word in this horrific crime. She was not a willing participant. She was in extreme duress from the time she was taken from Boulevard to the time she was rescued in Idaho. It was also during the interview with Hannah, that she was first told of the deaths of her mother and her brother. Hannah also revealed DiMaggio had a rifle and he fired at least one round prior to being shot and killed by the FBI's Hostage Rescue Team (HRT). Our primary concern is the well?being of Hannah and her family. We would appreciate your help in giving them the time to grieve and heal.
Assistant Special Agent in Charge San Diego, Robert Howe:
On behalf of the FBI family, we offer our condolences and deepest sympathies to the Anderson Family for the tragedy they have endured and suffered this last week. We also echo the Sheriff and Mr. Anderson's statements that they need the time to grieve. The FBI very much appreciates the law enforcement partnerships we have throughout the country and in San Diego that allow us to bring our resources to bear whenever state, local and regional resources are not enough. We are proud of the relationship we have here and we are very happy we were able to bring this to the ending that it did.
Brent Anderson full statement:
I would like to thank all of the branches of law enforcement involved for their quick actions and professionalism in all aspects of this investigation.
I would also like to thank Mary and Mike Young and Mark and Christa John; for without you, who knows how long this would have gone on. My family and I are eternally grateful. As a family we offer a special thank you to our local Sheriff's Department and the FBI who have been by our families' side from the beginning and their tireless efforts.
I want to thank all who spread the word, shared their hearts and thoughts through social media across the country. Because of you, this reached across the U.S. and beyond. We have no doubt this made a difference. Though relentless; I would also like to thank you, the media for all your coverage in keeping the issue alive and bringing my daughter home.
As a country, there are so many missing children. And though some of you might find the "Amber Alert" annoying, please pay attention. Keep your eyes open and let's bring those children home. No one should have to go through this.
Now it's time to grieve and move on to the healing process. I ask you to give me, all of our family and friends the respect and time to allow this to happen.
As for my daughter, the healing process will be slow. She has been through a tremendous, horrific ordeal. I am very proud of her and love her very much. She is surrounded by the love of her family, friends and community. Again, please as a family, give us our time to heal and grieve. Thank you.
Copyright 2013 Scripps Media, Inc. City News Service contributed to this report. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.