Suspect's car in Calif. missing teen case found in Idaho, witness reports pair sighted

  • Article by: ELLIOT SPAGAT , Associated Press
  • Updated: August 10, 2013 - 1:35 AM

This combination of photos provided by the San Diego Sheriff's Department shows James Lee DiMaggio, 40, left, and Hannah Anderson, 16. A massive search entered a sixth day Friday, Aug. 9, 2013 for DiMaggio, suspected of abducting the 16-year-old family friend. On Sunday night, authorities 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 which may be that of her 8-year-old brother, Ethan.

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CASCADE, Idaho — A car belonging to a man suspected of killing a California woman and her young son and then fleeing with the 16-year-old daughter was found in the Idaho wilderness on Friday after a horseback rider reported seeing the man and girl hiking in the area two days earlier, authorities said.

The discovery came as authorities in California positively identified the charred body of the girl's younger brother five days after its discovery.

The rider said he saw two people who matched the description of the pair near Morehead Lake, in an extremely rugged backcountry area 70 miles northeast of Boise sometime around noon Wednesday, Ada County Sheriff's Department spokeswoman Andrea Dearden said.

The rider didn't report his encounter with the pair until later, after seeing news reports and realizing they were being sought.

Idaho authorities started searching Thursday and the car was found Friday morning and identified through serial numbers as belonging to James Lee DiMaggio, 40.

There have been no other reported sightings of the pair since Wednesday, but the discovery launched a massive search in the southwest corner of The Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness.

More than 100 people were searching on foot and on horseback or were on their way to join the search of an area that Ada County sheriff's spokesman Patrick Orr described Friday evening as covering 320 square miles.

The rider also told police it did not appear that the girl, believed to be 16-year-old Hannah Anderson, was being held against her will. Both people seemed healthy and were equipped with gear necessary to hike and camp in Idaho's remote wilderness.

"There was nothing that was so alarming at the time that he felt threatened or alarmed," Dearden said of the unidentified rider. "But after seeing the Amber Alerts, there was something that made him think, in hindsight, that it all seemed a little odd."

Also late Friday, San Diego County sheriff's officials announced that, as expected, they had positively identified a charred body discovered at DiMaggio's home near the Mexican border as the girl's 8-year-old brother, Ethan Anderson.

The sheriff's crime lab identified the body found Sunday through DNA extracted from bone marrow, the department said in a brief statement.

The children's mother, Christina Anderson, 44, was also found dead at the burning house on Sunday night, and authorities around the west have been looking for DiMaggio and Hannah Anderson ever since.

Brett Anderson, Hannah's father, said he was "very happy" that Hannah may have been spotted alive. He said he couldn't explain why his daughter didn't ask the horseback rider for help.

"We don't know what kind of frame of mind she was in or what he told her," Anderson said. "Maybe if she acted differently, there would be more dead people."

Hannah's grandfather, Christopher Saincome, also was relieved and refused to try to explain the girl's reaction.

"He could have strapped something to her and told her it was a bomb. He could have had her tethered to him," he said. "I'm sure she's totally in shock."

The car, a blue Nissan Versa, was covered in brush off a road about 5 or 6 miles from the spot where the man and girl had been seen. The license plates had been removed, but the vehicle identification number matched that of the car being sought, San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore said.

Police previously warned that the car might be rigged with explosives. A law enforcement team from San Diego was expected to search and secure the car at the trailhead, sheriff's spokesman Orr said.

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