A memorial service in southern California Saturday marked an important point in the continuing saga of teenager Hannah Anderson’s abduction by an older family friend, eventual rescue in the Idaho wilderness, and return six days later to a life still marked by questions about what really happened and why.
"For the death of Tina and Ethan there are no easy words," the Rev. Kevin Casey told the memorial gathering, which was open to the public. "We are touched by this evil and we can never be the same again."
The two had been found dead in the home of James Lee DiMaggio, apparently killed before a fire had been ignited by a timer some 20 hours after DiMaggio and Hannah headed north on rural roads through California and Oregon to the River of No Return wilderness area in Idaho.
Although DiMaggio was considered “like an uncle” to the Anderson children – driving them to school and other events, taking them on trips, and providing comfort when they weren’t getting along with their parents, especially when Mr. and Mrs. Anderson separated and their father moved to Tennessee – law enforcement authorities have continued to insist that Hannah was “a victim in every sense of the word.”
“Hannah is a minor, and we have to bear in mind that anything we say, anything we do, anything we write is going to stay with her the rest of her life,” Jan Caldwell, a spokeswoman for the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, told the NBC News affiliate in the city.
This appears to explain the caution behind the lack of information about the phone messages DiMaggio and Hannah exchanged the day they left or about the content of letters she had sent that were found in his home.
Search warrants describe the cell phone exchanges with DiMaggio as telephone calls. But in an interview on NBC’s “Today” show this week – the only one she’s given so far – Hannah said they were a series of text messages giving him directions to pick her up at a cheerleading camp.
She explained the letters as having been written a year ago when Hannah (who recently turned 16) wasn’t getting along with her mother.
"Me and him would talk about how to deal with it," she said. "And I'd tell him how I felt about it. And he helped me through it. They weren't anything bad. They're just to help me through tough times."
Her father, Brett Anderson, has been with her since an FBI tactical team killed DiMaggio is an exchange of gunfire and Hannah was taken by helicopter – physically unharmed – to a hospital in Idaho.
It’s unclear whether she will join him in Tennessee or whether he might choose to live in California. Many experts say it’s best for her to remain in familiar circumstances, returning to the high school she had been attending as well as to the activities and friends in her hometown. She has other relatives there, including grandparents.
Another twist in the story occurred this week when it was reported that DiMaggio had willed his $112,000 life-insurance policy to Hannah’s and Ethan’s grandmother, presumably for their care.
This led DiMaggio’s sister to suspect that her brother – who had been the best man at Brett and Christina Anderson’s wedding in 2002 – might in fact be the children’s biological father.