SAN DIEGO (AP) — A 16-year-old girl who was rescued during an FBI shootout with her captor in the Idaho wilderness is resting at home with family and friends to begin what her father says will be a slow recovery.
“She has been through a tremendous, horrific ordeal,” said Brett Anderson, who declined to answer questions after reading a brief statement Monday. He pleaded for privacy.
Christopher Saincome, Hannah’s grandfather, said his son-in-law wanted to take Hannah with him to Tennessee, where he recently moved. Saincome urged him to have her stay in the San Diego area, where she grew up and has a large circle of friends.
“I think she needs to be here with friends,” Saincome said. “I know she’s taking it very tough. One of her best friends is with her, talking to her.”
Anderson is a gymnast at El Capitan High School in Lakeside, an east San Diego suburb of 54,000 people, where she also participated in an advanced dance class. The incoming junior recently celebrated a birthday with about two dozen friends at a San Diego cabaret bar.
Her world turned upside down Aug. 4, when, according to authorities, a longtime family friend abducted her after killing her mother and younger brother and abandoning them in his burning house in Boulevard, a remote town 65 miles east of San Diego on the U.S.-Mexico border. James Lee DiMaggio, 40, died in the shootout Saturday with FBI agents at an alpine lake.
Hannah Anderson didn’t know her mother and brother were dead until she was rescued, San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore said.
“I can’t make it any clearer: She was a victim in this case. She was not a willing participant,” Gore said at a news conference with Hannah’s father at sheriff’s department headquarters, which served as a command post during a massive 6-day search that spanned much of the western United States and parts of Canada and Mexico.
Gore said DiMaggio fired his rifle once or twice with Hannah nearby during Saturday’s showdown, and is believed to have shot first. He refused to say how many times DiMaggio was shot or elaborate on the rescue. He also declined to address how 44-year-old Christina Anderson and 8-year-old Ethan Anderson died, describe Hannah’s captivity or say whether she tried to escape.
The sheriff said the crime was “not spur of the moment” but would not elaborate. Sheriff’s Capt. Duncan Fraser said last week that investigators believe DiMaggio may have had an “unusual infatuation” with the girl.
DiMaggio was like an uncle to the children, driving Hannah to gymnastics meets and Ethan to football practice. He was close to their parents for nearly two decades.
The search for Hannah Anderson 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. Gore called it the “key event” in the search.
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 roadless 3,600-square-mile preserve in the heart of Idaho.
Initially, it was the lack of openness on the trail and a reluctance to engage in the polite exchange of banter. They were also 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.
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.
Associated Press writers Todd Dvorak in Boise, Idaho, Julie Watson in San Diego, Tami Abdollah in Los Angeles and Rebecca Boone in Cascade, Idaho, contributed to this report.