BOULEVARD, Calif. - An urgent, widespread search continued Tuesday for a man suspected of killing a longtime friend, kidnapping at least one of her two children and setting fire to his own East County home, where the woman's body was found last weekend along with that of an unidentified child.
James Lee DiMaggio, 40, is accused of killing 41-year-old Christina Anderson, whose remains were discovered in the charred rubble of his house in the 2000 block of Ross Avenue in Boulevard shortly after 8 p.m. Sunday. Investigators soon determined that she had been slain, sheriff's homicide Lt. Glenn Giannantonio said.
Since the fire, the whereabouts of the victim's children, Ethan, 8, and 16-year-old Hannah, have been unknown.
Tuesday evening, the children's father issued pleas through the news media to the fugitive suspect -- formerly a close friend -- and to his absent daughter.
"Jim, I can't fathom what you were thinking," Brett Anderson said, standing in front of a crowd of reporters and cameras in front of sheriff's headquarters in Kearny Mesa. "The damage is done. I'm begging you to let my daughter go. You've taken everything else."
He then addressed the missing girl.
"Hannah, we all love you very much," he said. "If you have a chance, you take it. You run. You'll be found."
The deceased young child found in the embers of DiMaggio's gutted rural home remained unidentified, Giannantonio told news crews following the father's comments.
"It is a possibility that it's Ethan," he said. "It's a possibility that it's another child (whom) we haven't identified yet or don't realize is missing yet."
In addition to killing the Lakeside woman and child, DiMaggio is believed to have torched his house and detached garage, Giannantonio said. The charred body of a dog also was found in the ashes.
The apparent homicide victims' causes of death were under investigation
A statewide child-abduction alert in the case was issued Monday evening. Authorities believe DiMaggio may be driving a blue 2013 Nissan Versa sedan, California license plate 6WCU986, and possibly fleeing to either Texas or Canada.
"Realistically, we don't know where they're going," Giannantonio said. "We're keeping a wide net, and hopefully we'll find them. We're looking everywhere. ... We're going to work on this case until we find them."
The lieutenant said investigators been receiving calls from the public about the case "all day."
"We've been following up on every one of those tips," he said. "There's still a backlog that we're trying to catch up on. Right now, we don't have any confirmed sightings of them, but there are several tips that we're following up on and (that) do look promising."
In addition to having been good friends with Brett and Christina Anderson for years, DiMaggio was close to their children, according to Giannantonio.
"From what I've heard, (Ethan and Hannah) considered him an uncle," the lieutenant told reporters.
The suspect is 5 feet 9 inches tall and about 150 pounds, with brown hair and brown eyes. Hannah is 5 feet 7 inches tall and 115 pounds, with blond hair, blue eyes, a navel ring, nose stud and pierced ears. Ethan was described as 4 feet 11 inches tall and 65 pounds, with sandy blond hair.
Anyone with information on the whereabouts of the suspect or the missing children was asked to call sheriff's communications at (858) 565-5200 or San Diego County Crime Stoppers at (888) 580-8477.