Car in Amber Alert found; suspect, teen seen in Idaho


by KTVB, Associated Press, KING 5 News

Posted on August 9, 2013 at 12:32 PM

Updated Friday, Aug 9 at 10:02 PM

BOISE -- The San Diego County sheriff said the car of a man wanted in connection with a missing Southern California teen that prompted a widespread Amber Alert has been found in Idaho.

The blue Nissan Versa of James DiMaggio was discovered Friday in a remote area of Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness, about six miles from Cascade, Idaho. The car was covered in brush and its license plates had been removed.

The car must now be assessed for safety because of concerns DiMaggio may have booby-trapped the vehicle with explosives.

Sheriff William Gore said Friday horseback riders reported seeing two people matching the description of DiMaggio and 16-year-old Hannah Anderson Wednesday, another five or six miles from the car.

The two had backpacks on and appeared to have been camping in the area. Since the Amber Alert was not activated in Idaho at the time, the riders didn't report it. Once the Amber Alert went into effect Friday, witnesses contacted police immediately.

"As far as we know, it didn't look like she was being held against her will," said Gore.

Authorities throughout the West have been looking for Hannah Anderson and family friend James DiMaggio since the bodies of the girl's mother and brother, Ethan, were found Sunday at DiMaggio's burned home in Boulevard, California, near the Mexico-California border. 

Authorities have said the 40-year-old DiMaggio had what they term an "unusual infatuation" with the 16-year-old.

Gore said DiMaggio had recently bought camping equipment and investigators say evidence suggests he may have planned this, but at this point it's speculation.

Numerous officers from local, state and federal law enforcement agencies were converging on the area to investigate. The Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness is a very remote area, and is not easily accessible.  Because of that, authorities say it could take several hours to gather credible information about this latest sighting.

Law enforcement teams are stationed at multiple access points around the wilderness area to monitor people coming and going from the area. 

Earlier in the week, an Amber Alert was issued in California for Hannah and Ethan Anderson. The Amber Alert later expanded to Oregon, Washington, Canada and Mexico, and on Friday had been activated in Idaho.

Hannah Anderson is described as a white female, 16 years old, 5 feet 7 inches and 115 pounds. She has blond or strawberry blond hair and blue eyes.

James DiMaggio is a white male, 40 years old, 5 feet 9 inches and 150 pounds. He has brown hair and brown eyes. He is considered dangerous and authorities warn not to approach him if he is spotted.

DiMaggio's vehicle is described as a blue 2000 Nissan Versa with California license plate 6WCU986.

Police said evidence found in the remains of DiMaggio's house suggests he may have fled with homemade explosives and that his car might be booby-trapped.

Authorities in the Northwest have been fielding dozens of tips after authorities issued the widespread Amber Alert. An additional eight FBI agents were assigned to a command post at San Diego sheriff's headquarters, as state and local law enforcement agencies went on alert.

"This is a pretty much an all-hands-on-deck effort. It's huge," San Diego County Sheriff's Capt. Duncan Fraser said.

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. On Friday night, officials identified a child's body as 8-year-old Ethan Anderson also found as they sifted through rubble in Boulevard, a tiny town 65 miles east of San Diego on the U.S.-Mexico border.

DiMaggio, a telecommunications technician at The Scripps Research Institute, was like an uncle to 16-year-old Hannah Anderson and Ethan, and close to their parents for years.

Investigators believe DiMaggio may have had an "unusual infatuation" with Hannah, Fraser said.

"That is kind of a working theory, that it may be something of a motivator," he said. "It's definitely something that we're looking at."

Dawn MacNabb, whose son Alan was close friends with Hannah, said she told her son last 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.

Christina Anderson's father, Christopher Saincome, said his daughter visited DiMaggio's home to say goodbye before he moved to Texas.