Kidnapping, murder suspect killed, teen girl 'safe' after Idaho manhunt

Dropped by helicopter, FBI teams surround camp, end ordeal

jsowell@idahostatesman.comAugust 10, 2013 

  • Timeline: Tracking James DiMaggio

    Sunday, Aug. 4: Authorities find the body of 42-year-old Christina Anderson when they extinguish flames at James DiMaggio’s rural home in Southern California. A child’s body also is found, burned beyond simple identification. San Diego County sheriff’s officials eventually identify the body as that of 8-year-old Ethan Anderson.

    Wednesday: Oregon State Police report a possible sighting of DiMaggio’s blue Nissan Versa in northeastern California near Alturas.

    Wednesday: Shortly after the sighting near Alturas, the Nissan is spotted 50 miles away along the same highway near Lakeview, Ore.

    Friday: Idaho authorities locate the car belonging to the suspect near Cascade. A man tells law enforcement that he saw two people matching the description of the suspect and Hannah Anderson near Morehead Lake.

    Saturday: DiMaggio is killed by an FBI agent; Anderson is taken to a hospital.

    Source: Statesman staff, AP

— Hannah Anderson's father, Brett Anderson, told Fox News that he plans to arrive in Idaho on Sunday to be reunited with his 16-year-old daughter, who was taken by helicopter to an unnamed hospital Saturday after her abductor, James DiMaggio, was fatally shot by an FBI agent.

"Hannah is safe and that was our first priority from the beginning," Valley County Sheriff Patti Bolen said at a news conference outside the Cascade Fire Department.

DiMaggio and Hannah were located near Morehead Lake, not far from where they were spotted Wednesday by a man riding his horse on the edge of the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness.

San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore said his office notified Brett Anderson of the rescue.

"He was very relieved and very excited and looking forward to being reunited with his daughter," Gore said.

Details of DiMaggio's killing will become clearer after a review of the shooting by an FBI team from Washington state, but some new information was released Saturday night.

DiMaggio and Hannah were first spotted from a plane near the lake, according to Ada County Sheriff's Office spokesman Patrick Orr. But smoky conditions made it difficult for the teams to see consistently or fly safely.

Officials then decided to send in two FBI hostage rescue teams, and the area's steep terrain forced helicopters to drop the teams into the wilderness. It took the agents more than two hours to hike the rugged land and reach DiMaggio's camp.

Once the camp was surrounded, the teams held their ground, not wanting to alert DiMaggio, according to Orr. The FBI agents waited until he and Hannah were separated and moved in, escorting her to safety.

One of the FBI agents killed DiMaggio, said Mary Rook, special agent in charge of the Salt Lake City office of the FBI. Authorities did not disclose whether agents tried to get DiMaggio to give himself up or whether he was shot on sight.

Ada County sheriff's spokeswoman Andrea Dearden said Hannah was taken to a "local" hospital but did not identify the facility or the city.

"We will make sure she gets as much care as possible, physically and emotionally," Dearden said.

Rook said no other details would be released until after the shooting review is completed.

"It's a feeling of jubilation to know they got her out alive," Boise resident Cindy Wilson said. "We were really nervous knowing that guy was up there."

Wilson was one of dozens of Cascade cabin owners who came to the fire department when they heard the news. They said they wanted to listen to details of the rescue and shooting during a news briefing.

"It will lower the fears of the people of Cascade to know he's not coming out," Wilson said.

Nampa resident Tammy Stewart, whose family also has a cabin in Cascade, said she was less afraid. "I think people were more curious than anything," Stewart said.

More than 300 local, state and federal law enforcement agents descended on the wilderness after DiMaggio's blue 2013 Nissan Versa was found Friday at a trail head 50 to 60 miles east of Cascade.

Half of the searchers were from the FBI, and they took over on Saturday.

A Gem County man who spotted the pair Wednesday did not realize they were the subject of a nationwide search until he returned home. He told police the man and teenage girl exchanged pleasantries with him. He said the pair were carrying camping gear and they didn't alarm him.

Jim Hass, who has served as Cascade's fire chief for 37 years, was one who believed DiMaggio and Hannah could not have gotten far.

"It's rough, rocky, steep terrain," Hass said Saturday from inside the Cascade Fire Department station. "It's not for the faint of heart or a day backpacker."

The Frank Church is filled with steep, rugged mountains, gorges deeper than the Grand Canyon, and a pair of rivers that attract white- water enthusiasts from across the country.

"You have to be physically fit. There's a lot of up and down," Hass said.

In town, the Cascade Airport sits at an elevation of 4,734 feet. Hikers through the wilderness climb peaks that reach 9,000 feet.

"Five miles would take all day," Hass said.

Carol Arnold is co-owner of Cascade-based Arnold Aviation, which has flown through the wilderness for 40 years ferrying recreation enthusiasts and delivering groceries, fuel, building supplies and mail. She said anyone camping there would run out of food quickly.

She wondered whether DiMaggio had scoped out the land ahead of time. "It's hard to think that anyone just wandered into an area like that," Arnold said.

Dearden praised the cooperation between all of the agencies involved in the manhunt. Authorities also sought information on the terrain and where someone might go in the wilderness from officials with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

"We wanted it to end safely and to bring Hannah home. That's exactly what happened," Dearden said.

The bodies of Anderson's mother Christina, 44, and her brother, 8-year-old Ethan Anderson, were found Aug. 4 in DiMaggio's burned home near the Mexican border, about 65 miles east of San Diego. DiMaggio was a family friend.

The Associated Press contributed. John Sowell: 377-6423, Twitter: @IDS_Sowell

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