Grief to euphoria: California teen rescued after suspect DiMaggio killed in Idaho

Posted at 3:56 PM, Aug 11, 2013
and last updated 2013-08-11 17:56:32-04

By Greg Botelho and Holly Yan


(CNN) — After an agonizing week of waiting, hoping and praying, Brett Anderson is expected to reunite with his 16-year-old daughter, Hannah, on Sunday.

Hannah was rescued in the Idaho wilderness after an FBI agent shot and killed the family friend suspected of killing her mother and brother, burning his own house down, and kidnapping the 16-year-old girl.

James DiMaggio’s death and Hannah’s rescue late Saturday afternoon ended a frantic weeklong manhunt. The girl did not appear to have significant physical injuries, authorities said.

“It’s now healing time,” the girl’s father said in a text message to CNN.

The rescue

Hannah went missing after cheerleading practice in San Diego County, California, on August 3.

The next day, the bodies of her mother, Christina Anderson, and 8-year-old brother, Ethan, were found about 45 miles east in DiMaggio’s burned house in Boulevard.

That horror spurred a manhunt, which zeroed in on central Idaho after two critical clues: the discovery of DiMaggio’s blue Nissan Versa outside the city of Cascade and a sighting of the pair by horseback riders.

One of the horseback riders on Sunday described multiple red flags that were raised during their brief interaction with the pair, including their brand-new camping equipment and the pajama-like bottoms Hannah was wearing.

Mark John recalled the interaction as “just like a square peg going into a round hole. They just didn’t fit.”

Unaware of the Amber Alert, however, the horseback riders continued on, and only after seeing a news report on the pair upon returning home did the group put the puzzle pieces together.

“When I seen that picture on the screen, I told my wife, I said, ‘That is the girl that was up on that mountain,'” John recalled.

Hundreds of law enforcement agents scoured 300 square miles of rough terrain, hampered by the smoke from nearby wildfires.

Late Saturday afternoon, they spotted the pair’s campsite near Morehead Lake, Idaho. But the topography was so steep, helicopters had to drop authorities off far away from the camp.

Hostage rescue teams had to hike more than two hours to get to the scene, local sheriffs’ departments said.

They moved in carefully so they wouldn’t alert DiMaggio that they were coming.

“Once the teams set up, they waited until DiMaggio and Hannah separated, and moved in,” the Valley and Ada county sheriffs’ offices said.

Authorities ushered Hannah to an area where a helicopter could whisk her away.

At some point, a “confrontation” ensued between authorities and DiMaggio, San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore said. The confrontation ended when an FBI tactical agent shot and killed the murder and kidnapping suspect.

“Obviously we would have liked for Mr. DiMaggio to surrender and face justice in the court of law,” Gore said. “But that’s not going to be the case.”

‘Hannah is safe’

Hannah didn’t appear to have significant physical injuries, but was immediately taken to a hospital, the sheriff’s spokeswoman said.

“Hannah is safe, and that was our first priority from the very beginning,” Valley County, Idaho, Sheriff Patti Bolen said.

In his text to CNN, Brett Anderson expressed a range of emotions upon hearing of his daughter’s rescue soon after his wife and son’s death.

“I am nervous excited saddened 4 my wife and son and worried what my daughter has been through,” he wrote.

Witness: DiMaggio had crush

A friend of Hannah Anderson detailed the relationship she noticed 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.

But Hannah did not want to be alone with DiMaggio after that, Chavez said.

“I don’t think she would have gone willingly with him at all,” she 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.

The horseback rider

DiMaggio’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 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, said Andrea Dearden, spokeswoman for Idaho’s Ada County sheriff’s office.

The rider’s impression was that the pair “seemed odd,” though he wasn’t alarmed, she said.

The rider said the man and girl were on foot, hiking with camping gear, Dearden said.

DiMaggio’s car was found unoccupied Friday — hidden by brush, with its license plate removed — spurring authorities to intensify their search in that area even further.

Ultimately, DiMaggio was spotted and killed not far from where he left his car, Dearden said.

From anguish to elation

Grief over the deaths of Hannah’s mother and brother gave way to euphoria after the teen was found alive.

“I can’t even cry anymore, I’m so happy,” Hannah’s great aunt Jennifer Willis said Saturday. “It’s been such a hard week.”

Hannah’s cousin Brandon Fambrough helped change the writing on relatives’ cars from “Bring Hannah Home” to “Welcome Home Hannah!”

“For something so beautiful to come out of something so bad, it’s all we can latch on to, and it’s keeping us all together,” he said.

CNN’s Gregg Canes, Miguel Marquez, AnneClaire Stapleton, Mariano Castillo and Alicia Eakin contributed to this report.