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Search widens for missing San Diego County girl and alleged kidnapper

The hunt for Hannah Anderson, 16, and James Lee DiMaggio extends into Nevada, Oregon and Washington, as well as Mexico.

August 08, 2013|By Kate Mather, Tony Perry and Hailey Branson-Potts
  • James Lee DiMaggio is the focus of a manhunt in four states, Mexico and Canada. He is believed to have abducted 16-year-old Hannah Anderson after killing her mother on Sunday.
James Lee DiMaggio is the focus of a manhunt in four states, Mexico and Canada.… (Associated Press )

BOULEVARD, CALIF. — The massive search for a missing San Diego County teenager allegedly abducted by a family friend stretched into Nevada, Oregon and Washington on Thursday, as well as neighboring Mexico.

Four days into the search for 16-year-old Hannah Anderson, authorities were no closer to finding her or her alleged kidnapper, James Lee DiMaggio, though numerous tips have poured in to law enforcement agencies in multiple states.

"Basically, the search area is the United States, Canada and Mexico," said Lt. Glenn Giannantonio of the San Diego County Sheriff's Department. "The search area is North America."

As the search fanned out Thursday, authorities had no confirmed sightings of Anderson or DiMaggio, who is believed to have abducted the teenager Sunday after killing her mother and 8-year-old brother in Boulevard, a rural border town in eastern San Diego County.

An Amber Alert for Hannah Anderson and her brother Ethan was active in four states Thursday, though authorities said it was possible she might have been taken to Texas, or even Canada. Boulevard is about five miles north of the Mexican border, and the FBI was working with Mexican authorities to search for DiMaggio, Giannantonio said.

New details in the case emerged Thursday about the death of Hannah's mother, 44-year-old Christina Anderson of Lakeside, another community east of San Diego. Anderson died of blunt force trauma and may have been hit with a crowbar, a source close to the investigation said.

Anderson's body was found in a stand-alone garage near DiMaggio's burning home, the source said. The body of a child was found in the house. Although the child has not been identified because the body was badly burned and DNA difficult to obtain, family members have said they believe it to be Ethan.

Christina Anderson's dog was also found dead on the property, Giannantonio said.

An arrest warrant for murder has been issued for DiMaggio, and a judge agreed to set bail at $1 million if he is arrested, San Diego County sheriff's officials said Thursday.

DiMaggio, 40, might have abandoned his blue Nissan Versa and left it booby-trapped with explosives, authorities said, warning people that if they find the vehicle or anywhere he might have stopped, they should stay away.

As the Amber Alert widened to Nevada, authorities said DiMaggio might have changed vehicles.

DiMaggio is an avid outdoorsman, and Giannantonio said authorities are also urging people to be on the lookout at campsites and other rural areas where he might be hiding.

DiMaggio works as a telecommunications technician at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla and has been described by authorities as a close family friend whom the Anderson children called "Uncle Jim."

Those who lived near him in the neighborhood in Boulevard are still having trouble believing the news. Everyone agreed, they all said, that he seemed like a nice guy.

DiMaggio moved to the remote town a few years ago. He chatted with one neighbor across their shared chain-link fence and told another he was pleased with the gas mileage he was getting from his new blue Nissan.

When DiMaggio's friend, Christina Anderson, brought her children to visit, he offered his home and yard for the other neighborhood children to play in.

Mary Momberg, wiping away tears, said her 10-year-old son and 18-year-old daughter were friends with the Andersons and would visit when the children were at DiMaggio's.

Her son was the first to spot the flames, she said. "He looked out the window and said, 'Jim's house is on fire.'"

Momberg said her son was shocked by the news. "He said, 'It couldn't be Jim. Jim couldn't do something like that.'"

On Thursday morning, "PRAY 4 HANNAH" was spelled out in pink plastic cups on a chain-link fence surrounding the teenager's school, El Capitan High in Lakeside. Deflating balloons and flowers were woven into the fence, along with signs.

"Pray for the Andersons," one sign read.

On it, someone penned a message: "Hope you come home safe! God is with you Hannah! God will bring you back, I know it!"

kate.mather@latimes.com

tony.perry@latimes.com

hailey.branson@latimes.com

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