The Kidnapping Of 16-Year-Old Cheerleader Hannah Anderson
A cruel social media campaign alleges the teen may not be telling the entire truth about what happened.
On Aug. 3, 2013, 16-year-old Hannah Anderson was abducted while leaving cheerleading camp in a San Diego suburb. Her alleged abductor was James DiMaggio, a close family friend she reportedly called "Uncle Jim."
DiMaggio had reportedly befriended Anderson's mom and been a source of emotional support following her separation from Hannah's father, who had relocated to Tennessee for a new job a few months before the slayings.
Anderson reportedly said she thought she was getting a ride home –but DiMaggio allegedly kidnapped the teen and headed for Idaho.
Later that day, police were horrified to find the bodies of her mother Christina Anderson, 42, brother Ethan, 8, and the family dog at DiMaggio's burned-out home. Investigators allege a timer was used to set the house ablaze.
An AMBER alert was issued, and investigators launched a multi-state search for the teenager. It centered on two critical clues – the alleged discovery of DiMaggio's blue Nissan Versa outside the city of Cascade, Idaho, and a reported sighting of the pair by horseback riders.
One of the men who saw the pair alleges he noticed multiple 'red flags" during the brief interaction, including the brand-new camping equipment and pajama-like bottoms he claims Hannah Anderson was wearing.
The teen and her alleged kidnapper, according to police, were in The Frank Church-River of No Return wilderness area, which is located on 2.5 million acres of heavily forested mountains, deep ravines, and fast-moving rivers. After battling the harsh terrain, authorities say they spotted DiMaggio and Anderson on Aug. 10, at a campsite near Morehead Lake. Hostage rescue teams had to hike more than two hours to get to the scene. Once they closed in on the teen and her alleged captor, an FBI tactical agent fatally shot DiMaggio.
Authorities later searched DiMaggio's home and garage and allegedly found several incriminating items, including a handwritten note, handcuff box, camping equipment, and a DNA swab kit.
Though detectives claim DiMaggio acted alone, some members of the public have raised questions about the extent of his relationship with the teenager before the alleged kidnapping after letters and texts allegedly from Hannah to DiMaggio were found.
Shortly after her ordeal, Anderson fielded anonymous questions on the website Ask.fm, where she shared details about her alleged abduction. In the postings, she said she did not want to go with him, did not escape after she was abducted out of fear he would kill her, and is "absolutely" glad he is dead.
She stated emphatically that her letters to him were sent a year earlier when she was having problems with her mother and had nothing to do with her ordeal. Anderson also reportedly told NBC News that her relationship with DiMaggio, who she thought of as "more like a second dad and a best friend," took a bizarre turn before the alleged kidnapping.
"He told me,'Don't think of me as creepy uncle Jim, but if you were older I'd date you,'" Anderson told Savannah Guthrie. "And it just really didn't seem right. It was just really uncomfortable. I got, like, a weird vibe off of it."
But Anderson said she never told her mother about the alleged unsettling exchange with DiMaggio because he had been a supportive friend to her mom since her separation. She also said text messages sent to DiMaggio before the alleged abduction was merely directions to her cheerleading camp since he was meant to be picking her up.
Anderson was able to pick up the pieces of her life and went on to make plans for college and has reportedly been in a relationship with a football player at her high school.
DiMaggio’s sister Lora DiMaggio Robinson filed a $20 million lawsuit against the FBI, in which she alleged that SWAT officers did not need to kill DiMaggio when they found him in the wilderness. In April 2017, a judge ruled that the lawsuit could move forward.
In 2015, Anderson reportedly weighed in on social media about the Lifetime movie that was made based on her case.
“I never have [sic] them any form of permission to make this movie or even information to put in this movie,” she wrote on a (now-deleted) Instagram post. “Even the preview alone has false facts and untrue events.”
She asked that “people who support me not to watch this lie of a movie” and said, “When the time comes I will tell my story, but again if anyone is gonna tell my story it should be me.”
There is a social-media campaign by conspiracy theorists who believe she’s not telling the whole truth and may have had a hand in what happened. They go so far as to allege she was not kidnapped and has told lies in the case. She reportedly disabled her Ask.fm account due to people cruelly suggesting she was a participant in the alleged abduction and the slayings of her mother and brother.