Thursday, August 8, 2013
SAN DIEGO (CNS) - Teams of investigators worked urgently today to find a murder suspect from Boulevard and a teenage girl he is suspected of kidnapping after allegedly killing her mother and a child who, so far, has not been identified.
The FBI was helping the San Diego County Sheriff's Department and other police agencies across the country develop leads into the whereabouts of 40-year-old James Lee DiMaggio, who is believed to be on the run with 16-year-old Hannah Anderson of Lakeside and, possibly, her 8-year-old brother, Ethan.
Authorities warned the public to consider DiMaggio highly dangerous and likely armed, potentially with explosive or incendiary devices that he might use to booby-trap his vehicle or any structure he uses as a hideout.
Law enforcement officials believe the suspect may be driving his blue 2013 Nissan Versa sedan, California license 6WCU986, and might have headed to Texas or Canada, though they conceded that he could have reached almost any destination since disappearing last weekend.
``As we've said all along, he could be in Mexico, he could be in Canada, or he could be a mile away (from where he lived),'' sheriff's spokeswoman Jan Caldwell said.
The suspect, a camping enthusiast, might be trying to avoid capture by traveling through or hunkering down in wilderness areas, Caldwell noted.
DiMaggio allegedly killed longtime friend Christina Anderson, 44, and an unidentified child, possibly her son. The victims' burned bodies and the remains of a dog were found Sunday evening in the charred rubble of the suspect's torched back-country home off Old Highway 80.
Investigators believe DiMaggio burned down his log cabin-style Ross Avenue home and detached garage before fleeing.
Authorities were awaiting the results of DNA comparisons to determine if the deceased child was Ethan. Those tests could take several more days to complete, or might wind up inconclusive, sheriff's homicide Lt. Glenn Giannantonio said.
An autopsy determined that the smaller set of remains was consistent with an 8-year-old boy. Authorities were aware of no other local missing children of that age, the lieutenant said.
Over the past several days, officials have received hundreds of tips out of communities ``from coast to coast'' about possible sightings of the suspect, his car and the missing children. None has proved conclusive, according to sheriff's officials.
Early Wednesday afternoon, investigators got word that DiMaggio's vehicle may have been spotted on northbound Highway 395 in Alturas, in the northeast corner of California, and just across the state line in southern Oregon. Local authorities, however, were unable to substantiate the reports.
Amber alerts have been issued in the case in California, Oregon, Nevada and Washington, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
A half-dozen FBI agents have joined the investigation as a means of expanding ``interstate and international capabilities,'' according to Caldwell.
On Tuesday evening, the father of the missing children addressed the suspect, formerly a good friend of his, through the news media.
``Jim, I can't fathom what you were thinking,'' Brett Anderson said in front of sheriff's headquarters in Kearny Mesa. ``The damage is done. I'm begging you to let my daughter go. You've taken everything else.''
He also directed a few pointed comments to his daughter.
``Hannah, we all love you very much,'' he said. ``If you have a chance, you take it. You run. You'll be found.''
This morning, the grieving father told reporters he was at a loss to explain how his longtime family friend could have committed the terrible crimes attributed to him.
``I have been through every scenario in my brain,'' Brett Anderson said.
``There was nothing ever to show any indication of this. Everybody you could ... talk to loved (DiMaggio).''
The suspect's sister told 10News her brother was a man of exemplary character, saying someone else must have committed the crimes and abducted or killed him in the process.
``He helped everyone that he knew in every way that he could, and he was a kind, kind, giving, loving person,'' Lora DiMaggio said in a halting voice.
``He's done so much for so many people, and I just want him to come home.''
In addition to having been a good friend to Brett and Christina Anderson for about 20 years, the suspect, who worked as a computer technician, was close to their children for their entire lives, investigators said.
``From what I've heard, (Ethan and Hannah) considered him an uncle,'' Giannantonio told reporters.
Giannantonio conceded that DiMaggio's alleged atrocities seemed out of character.
``However, we have a vast amount of evidence to show that he is responsible for these crimes,'' the lieutenant said.
Authorities have declined to disclose what led them to conclude that DiMaggio was the one responsible for the woman's death and the children's disappearances.
The lieutenant also would not reveal why authorities believed that the suspect might have bomb-making capability and intentions, only saying they reached that conclusion ``based on evidence uncovered thus far in our investigation.''
Officials urged anyone spotting DiMaggio -- who is about 5 feet 9 inches and 150 pounds, with brown hair and brown eyes -- to avoid approaching or contacting him, and to instead contact law enforcement immediately.
Hannah is about 5 feet 7 and 115 pounds, with blond hair, blue eyes, a navel ring, a nose stud and pierced ears. Ethan was described as about 4 feet 11 inches and 65 pounds, with sandy blond hair.
Anyone with information on the possible whereabouts of the suspect or the missing children was asked to call the San Diego County Sheriff's Department at (858) 565-5200.