Valdosta Daily Times

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August 16, 2013

Warrants fuel questions in teen’s disappearance

SAN DIEGO — The California man who abducted a teenage family friend and tortured her mother and 8-year-old brother before killing them exchanged more than a dozen calls with the 16-year-old girl in the hours before the slaying.

Exactly how James Lee DiMaggio tortured them or why he and Hannah Anderson exchanged about 13 calls wasn’t immediately clear, but the new details in court papers fueled questions about how and why he targeted his best friend’s family and fled with a girl who has said she felt uncomfortable around him.

Firefighters found the body of Christina Anderson, 44, near a crowbar and what appeared to be blood next to her head. DiMaggio is believed to have shot and killed their family dog, found under a sleeping bag in the garage with blood close to its head.

Investigators found 8-year-old Ethan’s body as they sifted through rubble.

DiMaggio “tortured and killed” the mother and son, San Diego County sheriff’s Detective Darren Perata wrote, offering no elaboration, in the warrants released Wednesday. Hannah was rescued days later in the Idaho wilderness, where authorities killed DiMaggio in a shootout.

The warrants do not indicate the time, duration or content of the calls that DiMaggio and Hannah exchanged before she was picked up at cheerleading practice Aug. 4, hours before firefighters found DiMaggio’s burning garage in Boulevard, a rural town 65 miles east of San Diego.

Jan Caldwell, a San Diego County sheriff’s spokeswoman, said they may have been discussing pickup times.

Investigators who searched DiMaggio’s home found letters from Hannah, an incendiary device, a handcuff box and “arson wire,” according to a warrant posted on the website of KFMB-TV. The warrant does not elaborate on the letters or nature of the devices.

DiMaggio was extraordinarily close to both children, driving Hannah to gymnastics meets and Ethan to football practice. The warrants say the former telecommunications technician took Hannah on multi-day trips, most recently to Malibu and Hollywood.

Hannah acknowledged being uncomfortable around DiMaggio before the ordeal, saying on a social-media site earlier this week that he once told her that he was drawn to her. “He said it was more like a family crush like he had feelings as in he wanted nothing bad to happen to me,” she wrote on the ask.fm site.

Hannah said she didn’t tell her parents because DiMaggio was his father’s best friend “and I didn’t want to ruin anything between them.”

She said she didn’t learn that her mother and brother had died until authorities told her in the hospital after she was rescued. She said she cried all night.

San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore has been adamant that Hannah was an unwilling victim from start to finish. “I can’t make it any clearer,” he said at a news conference Monday.

Hannah’s father, Brett Anderson, declined to take questions after making a brief statement at a fundraiser for the family in Lakeside, an east San Diego suburb and Hannah’s hometown. Caldwell said investigators may offer a more detailed account in the future but that some questions may never be answered.

“Right now she’s with her family and, of course, with some friends, and she’s just happy to be here,” Brett Anderson told reporters outside the Boll Weevil restaurant, which hosted the fundraiser.

Anderson said he spoke with the horseback riders who saw the pair in the Idaho wilderness and alerted authorities, thanking them for saving his daughter’s life.

Hannah Anderson was mobbed by reporters as she entered the restaurant and did not make a statement.

DiMaggio was shot at least five times in the head and chest, according to the Valley County, Idaho, coroner, who was unable to determine a precise number of gunshot wounds. His body was cremated Tuesday near Los Angeles.

On her ask.fm social media account, Hannah said she “basically” stayed awake for six straight days and repeatedly told her captor she was hungry. She couldn’t escape because DiMaggio had a gun and “threatened to kill me and anyone who tried to help.”

Asked if she would have preferred DiMaggio got a lifetime prison sentence instead of being killed, she said, “He deserved what he got.”

The ask.fm account was disabled but there were postings on an Instagram account linked to Hannah’s now-disabled page. “Dad is not taking this very well,” she wrote late Wednesday. “None of us are but please watch over him. I’m all he’s got left. Even though your gone we are still a team. Love and miss you. “

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