The abduction of California teenager Hannah Anderson by a 40-year-old family friend came to a violent end Saturday evening when James Lee DiMaggio was shot and killed by an FBI tactical team in the Idaho wilderness following three days of searching marked by Amber Alerts in five western states.
Law enforcement authorities report that 16-year-old Hannah was rescued – apparently unhurt, but taken to an area hospital for evaluation.
Although the main point of the search and rescue mission has been completed, many important questions remain to be answered.
Was Mr. DiMaggio directly responsible for the fire at his home that killed Hannah’s mother, Christina Anderson, and her younger brother, Ethan?
Did DiMaggio resist arrest or put up a fight? Based on what had been found at his home, authorities had warned that his car – found covered in brush at a trailhead – might be rigged with explosives. But nothing so far has been reported about any firearms or other weapons he might have had when what authorities say was a “confrontation” occurred.
Did Hannah, with whom DiMaggio had become infatuated, leave the San Diego area voluntarily with the man said to be “like an uncle” to the Anderson siblings? Did she know her mother and brother had been killed?
She had indicated no distress to the horseback rider who saw the two with camping gear in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness Area – a rugged, heavily forested area about 70 miles northeast of Boise – a few days earlier, chatting briefly with them.
But in other cases involving girls abducted by men – the kidnapping of Elizabeth Smart in Salt Lake City in 2003 and who was held for nine months – they had opportunities to tell police officers of their situation but didn’t do so because the kidnapper had threatened their family.
In Hannah's case, freely joining DiMaggio seems unlikely for another reason: When DiMaggio suggested to Hannah that they might date if they were the same age, Hannah told friend Marissa Chavez, 15, that she never wanted to be alone with him.
"She was a little creeped out by it," Marissa told The Associated Press.
Amber Alerts, broadcast on television, as flashing roadside signs, and as automatic text messages sent with a piercing noise to smart phones, apparently played a big role in the rescue effort.
DiMaggio’s blue Nissan Versa automobile was seen traveling north through rural California and then Oregon into Idaho. The horseback rider, who met Hannah and DiMaggio on the wilderness trail, recognized them from TV news reports; when he got home, he called the Amber Alert tip line.
Hundreds of local, state, and federal police agents, aided by law enforcement aircraft, swarmed the area, finding the pair camped at Morehead Lake not far from where they had met the man on horseback.
"Obviously we would've liked Mr. DiMaggio to surrender and face justice in the court of law, but that's not going to be the case," San Diego Sheriff Bill Gore said at a press conference Saturday evening.
Hannah is expected to be reunited with her father, Brett Anderson, on Sunday.
"Now that Hannah is safe and being evaluated in a medical facility, FBI victim specialists are working with Hannah and her family to get them the resources they need as they enter this next challenging phase of this incident," said Mary Rook, spokeswoman for the FBI's office in Salt Lake City.
Officials say it will take some time before exactly what happened in the Idaho wilderness is known.
“As a matter of policy, the FBI automatically dispatches a shooting review team from Washington to review the circumstances surrounding any situation where an FBI agent discharges a firearm,” said Ms. Rook.
“The team will interview witnesses and determine exactly what happened. For this reason, no other details can be released at this time,” she said. “When incidents like these occur, no one ever really knows where the investigation will lead. In this case, our team faced a very challenging situation.”