Amber Alert tracks suspected California abductor north toward Canada

Smart phone owners in Oregon and Washington State began getting Amber Alert notifications as suspected child abductor James Lee DiMaggio apparently headed north from California.

Sean M. Haffey/U-T San Diego/AP
Athena Stewart lights a candle during a vigil for Hannah and Ethan Anderson Tuesday night at El Capitan High School in Lakeside, Calif. The siblings have been missing since Sunday night and are believe to have been kidnapped by James Lee DiMaggio who is suspected of killing Christina Anderson, the children's mother.

Smart phone owners in Oregon and Washington State were jarred by insistently loud “Amber Alerts” on their mobile devices this morning, notifying them that a suspected child abductor could be headed from Southern California north toward Canada.

Law enforcement authorities reported possible sightings of James Lee DiMaggio's blue Nissan Versa, California license 6WCU986, in Alturas, Calif. and then Lakeview, Ore. If accurate, this information means Mr. DiMaggio is avoiding major Interstate highways, traveling north on two-lane Highway 395 through the remote Oregon outback.

DiMaggio is a suspect in the death of Christina Anderson, the abduction of her 16-year-old daughter Hannah, and the possible death or abduction of her 8-year old son Ethan. Ms. Anderson's body was found in DiMaggio's burning home east of San Diego, near the dead body of a child who may be Ethan Anderson.

DiMaggio, 40, reportedly was a close friend of the family, joining them on camp-outs and described as “like an uncle” to Hannah and Ethan.

"He basically became part of our family," Hannah’s father, Brett Anderson, told CNN on Thursday. "There was nothing ever to show any indication of this. I can't fathom what happened in Jim's head. He obviously just lost it.”

At some point, DiMaggio apparently had developed a crush on the teenage girl, according to a friend of Hannah’s.

Marissa Chavez, 15, said DiMaggio told Hannah he would date her if they were the same age.

She said he spoke while driving them home from a high school gymnastics meet a couple months ago.

Hannah asked Marissa to join her from then on whenever DiMaggio drove her to meets.

"She was a little creeped out by it. She didn't want to be alone with him," Marissa told the Associated Press.

Meanwhile, the Amber Alerts continued Thursday as investigators probed the house fire that killed Christina Anderson and perhaps her son Ethan.

Many new smart phones – including the Apple iPhone – are set up to automatically receive the high-pitched 10-second Amber Alert alarms, which look like incoming text messages on phone screens. At that point, choices are to “dismiss” the message or go to “settings.”

Participating cell phone service providers include AT&T, Cellcom, Cricket, Sprint, Nextel, T-Mobile, US Cellular, Verizon Wireless, and Bluegrass Cellular, reports WebProNews.

Automatic Amber Alerts are a relatively new feature on smart phones, and the loud alarm “irritated and even angered some customers,” according to WebProNews.

Television producer Craig Rosa says he was in his car with his wife when both of their phones started buzzing “with an alert 10 times louder than any other alert on the phone.”

“We had no idea what it was,” he told WebProNews. “Almost ran off the road trying to shut the things off.”

To turn off automatic Amber Alerts on an iPhone, go to Settings > Notifications, then scroll to the bottom of the screen to “Government Alerts” where “Amber Alerts and “Emergency Alerts” may be switched on or off.

The Amber Alert system is named for Amber Hagerman, a nine-year-old abducted and murdered in Texas in 1996.

This report includes material from the Associated Press.

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