Ada County Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer Andrea Dearden addresses the media at the Cascade Fire Station in Cascade, Idaho.
SAN DIEGO — A close family friend suspected of abducting a 16-year old girl after killing her mother and younger brother fired at least one shot at FBI rescuers before agents 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, San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore said Monday.
“It was clear from the information that we received that she was under extreme duress,” Gore told KSWB-TV, the Fox affiliate in San Diego. “She was taken out of the county, out of the state, clearly against her will.”
James Lee DiMaggio, 40, fired at least one shot from “a shoulder weapon” Saturday during the rescue, Gore said. “The first rule is to try to rescue the hostage here and hopefully take the subject alive. That did not happen in this case.”
Hannah’s father, Brett Anderson, reunited with his daughter Sunday at an undisclosed hospital in Boise, where she was flown hours after her rescue from a camp near an alpine lake. Hannah also rejoined her gray cat, which she had with her in the wilderness.
Hannah’s father was scheduled to speak Monday at a news conference in San Diego with Gore and the head of the FBI’s San Diego office. Jan Caldwell, a spokeswoman for the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, declined to answer questions about the rescue or investigation.
The massive search spanning much of the Western United States and parts of Canada and Mexico probably would have taken longer if a sharp-eyed retired sheriff and three other horseback riders in the rugged backcountry hadn’t seen the pair Wednesday.
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 3,600-square-mile roadless 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. They saw Hannah Anderson soak her feet in the lake and again avoid interaction. Still, nothing about their behavior raised suspicion that DiMaggio was wanted for murder and kidnapping.
“If she was sending us signals that she was in trouble, we didn’t key in on it,” Mary Young, 61, said at a news conference Sunday in Boise.
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 inside the wilderness border and 40 miles 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 up to 100 pounds of tactical gear along a rough trail characterized by steep switchbacks and treacherous footing.
The teams waited until Anderson and DiMaggio were no longer near each other before moving in.
The case began when the charred bodies of Anderson’s mother, Christina Anderson, 44, and the teen’s 8-year-old brother, Ethan Anderson, were found in DiMaggio’s burning house in Boulevard, a small town 65 miles east of San Diego on the U.S.-Mexico border.
DiMaggio was extraordinarily close to the family, driving Hannah to gymnastics meets and Ethan to football practice.
Authorities have said DiMaggio may have had an “unusual infatuation” with Hannah, although the father said he never saw any strange behavior.
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