Updated 11:56 a.m.: Suspected San Diego kidnapper may have been spotted with friend's daughter
Authorities announced in a news conference broadcast on television Friday that kidnapping suspect James DiMaggio and missing 16-year-old girl Hannah Anderson were apparently spotted by hikers in the Idaho wilderness.
San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore told the news conference that a group of horseback riders outside of Cascade, Idaho, came across a man and woman Wednesday morning, with whom they had a short conversation, though authorities declined to disclose what was said in that conversation. After returning from their ride, the riders saw national news reports about the Amber Alert for Anderson and realized these were likely the same people, then contacted authorities.
That information led to a search for DiMaggio's blue Nissan Versa, Gore said. It was discovered Friday morning in brush, and Gore said it seemed that the DiMaggio had been attempting to hide the vehicle and keep it out of plain view. The license plates had been removed, but it was confirmed an hour later through the VIN number that it belonged to DiMaggio.
"From the account we received, they both appeared to be in good health," Gore said. "I'm very confident — and I think we should all be optimistic — that she seemed to be in somewhat good health and was alive on Wednesday, and that law enforcement will find them in the mountains and return them safely."
Authorities were unable to determine from witness accounts if Anderson was being held against her will, Gore said. "As far as we know, it didn't look like she was being held against her will," Gore added.
DiMaggio and Anderson were both wearing backpacks and carrying a tent, according to witnesses, indicating that they were camping in the area, Gore said. Authorities did know that DiMaggio had recently purchased camping equipment in the past couple of weeks, Gore said.
"[The witnesses] did seem to think the two of them were out of place in that area, with the light equipment they had," Gore said.
They were seen in a wilderness area that's extremely difficult to navigate, Gore said. Vehicles aren't practical in the area, meaning that those in the area usually travel by horseback or on foot, Gore said. He also said that there weren't facilities in the area to rent a horse as far as he knew, so horses would have to be brought in from outside.
Hannah's brother, Ethan, is also missing, but reports indicate he may have died in a house fire with his mother, Christina, on Wednesday.
"We're still holding out hope that Ethan is still alive, but the sighting up in Idaho was a man and apparently a teenage girl," Gore said. "So there was no sighting Wednesday of a small boy."
Authorities say they don't know what the motive is at this point, but that they're acting on information indicating that what DiMaggio did was planned.
The car was set to be examined by bomb and arson technicians in Idaho to make sure that the vehicle was safe before further forensic examination, Gore said, but no explosives had been discovered yet. The car was found about six miles from Cascade, and DiMaggio and Anderson were spotted about five to six miles from where the car was discovered.
Gore said that authorities do have reason to believe that explosives are involved and to assume DiMaggio is armed. Gore said that, if seen, DiMaggio should be approached cautiously.
The FBI, U.S. Marshals and other law enforcement officials are all involved in the search. According to Gore, the search will include aerial resources, people on horseback and law enforcement officials who know the terrain, along with other local, state and federal resources.
— Mike Roe
11:05 a.m.: Fugitive may have rigged car with explosives
Police are warning that a California man suspected of abducting a 16-year-old family friend may have abandoned his car while on the run and rigged it with explosives.
The search for James Lee DiMaggio, 40, entered a sixth day Friday. "In the event that someone comes across the car, they need to use caution," said San Diego County Sheriff's Capt. Duncan Fraser.
Authorities say he had an "unusual infatuation" with teenager Hannah Anderson. "That is kind of a working theory, that it may be something of a motivator," Fraser said.
An Amber Alert was already in place for California, Oregon and Washington, and on Friday it was extended to Idaho, according to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.
On Sunday, police found the body of Hannah's mother — 44-year-old Christina Anderson — when they extinguished flames at DiMaggio's rural home. A child's body also was discovered as they sifted through rubble in Boulevard, 65 miles east of San Diego.
The body may be that of Hannah's 8-year-old brother, Ethan. Fraser said it could take several days to identify the badly burned remains. Investigators were unable to extract DNA.
Evidence found in the rubble suggested DiMaggio may have fled with homemade explosives, Fraser said, declining to elaborate on what was discovered. The car may be booby-trapped, he said.
Officials are searching for suspect James Lee Dimaggio (left) in relation to an Amber Alert issued after a house was burned down in San Diego County and a woman's body and the remains of a child were found inside. Officials think the woman's two children, 8-year-old Ethan Anderson and 16-year-old Hannah Marie Anderson, could have been abducted by DiMaggio. (Photo: San Diego County Sheriff's Department)
DiMaggio is wanted on suspicion of murder and arson in a search that began in California and spread to Oregon, Washington, Nevada, British Columbia and Mexico's Baja California state. An additional eight FBI agents were assigned to a command post at San Diego sheriff's headquarters, as state and local law enforcement agencies were on alert.
Oregon State Police fielded more than 130 tips after authorities issued an Amber Alert for DiMaggio and his blue Nissan Versa with California license plates. A possible sighting was reported in northeast California near Alturas Wednesday afternoon, followed by another about 50 miles along the same highway near Lakeview, in south-central Oregon.
Fraser, whose office had hundreds of leads on DiMaggio's whereabouts, said the Oregon tip appeared "very credible"
"We're taking it very seriously," he said.
Washington State Patrol responded to reports of sightings on Interstate 5, including the Tacoma area, Vancouver and at least one near Bremerton, said Sgt. Jason Hicks.
Messages seeking DiMaggio and the Anderson children appeared on digital billboards and freeway signs, said Bob Hoever, director of special programs for the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. Loud tones beeped on mobile phones in the four western states where Amber Alerts were issued.
In Mexico, airports, bus and taxi companies and law enforcement agencies were on the lookout, said Alfredo Arenas, international liaison for the Baja California state police.
"This is a pretty much an all-hands-on-deck effort. It's huge," Fraser said.
DiMaggio, a telecommunications technician at The Scripps Research Institute in San Diego, was like an uncle to Hannah and Ethan Anderson. He was close to their parents for years.
Christina Anderson's father, Christopher Saincome, said his daughter visited DiMaggio's home to say goodbye before he moved to Texas.
Dawn MacNabb, whose son, Alan, was close friends with Hannah, said Hannah told her son Friday that the Andersons were going to visit DiMaggio at his house before he moved.
"She told him Jim was depressed, that it was his last weekend," MacNabb said.
DiMaggio told Hannah Anderson a couple months ago he had a crush on her and would date her if they were the same age, said Marissa Chavez, 15, a friend who witnessed the remarks when DiMaggio was driving them home from a gymnastics competition. Chavez said Hannah was "a little creeped out by it."
DiMaggio argued with Hannah when he took her alone to Hollywood to celebrate her 16th birthday last month, Chavez and MacNabb said.
MacNabb said DiMaggio occasionally took Hannah and her friends to his house and that she felt uncomfortable enough to warn Christina Anderson.
"She really trusted him," MacNabb said. "I have been concerned for a while. It's not normal behavior."
Brett Anderson, the children's father and Christina's husband, recently moved to Tennessee.
— Associated Press