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DiMaggio, girl looked unprepared, out of place in woods, couples say

August 11, 2013|By Paloma Esquivel

Two couples described their unusual encounter in the Idaho wilderness with a missing 16-year-old from California and her suspected abductor.

James Lee DiMaggio, the man suspected of kidnapping Hannah Anderson, was shot and killed by an FBI agent at a remote central Idaho campsite Saturday in a dramatic rescue that left the girl unharmed.

Authorities learned that DiMaggio and Anderson might be in the woods after they got a tip late last week from Mark and Christa John of Sweet, Idaho, who encountered the pair at a lake while on a fishing and camping trip with friends Mike and Mary Young, who also saw the pair.  

The foursome, who were traveling on horseback, described two people who looked unprepared and out of place “like a square peg going into a round hole,” said  Mark John.

“They didn’t fit. He may have been an outdoorsman in California, but he was not an outdoorsman in Idaho," John said.

John’s wife was so concerned about the girl that she wanted to go up to their campsite to inquire about her well-being. Her husband advised her to leave them alone.

The Johns' friends, Mike and Mary Young, first encountered the pair during a Wednesday morning horseback ride. They came up behind DiMaggio and Anderson while they were hiking on a trial, they said. Hannah was wearing tennis shoes and what looked like pajama bottoms or sweat pants, Mike Young said. DiMaggio wore a gray shirt and a backpack. Mike Young noticed that DiMaggio had pitched a tent on a dry, nearby ridge, which Young described as dangerous and “a lightning rod.”

In a conversation that lasted only a few seconds, DiMaggio told Mike Young he and Hannah were headed to the Salmon River, but, Young said, “they were headed in the wrong direction.” Hannah turned her face away during the encounter, Young said.

She “kind of had a scared look on her face when I first came up the trail,” Young said. At the time, he attributed it to being taken off-guard by the horses.

Mary Young said she encountered the pair a short time later.

“It looked like he had his arm around her waist,” Mary Young said. “She did appear frightened,” but she also attributed it to the horses.

Several hours later, at about 5 p.m., the Youngs and Johns again encountered DiMaggio and Anderson at a lake. Hannah was soaking her feet in the water. DiMaggio was petting a grey cat. When John asked what DiMaggio was doing with a cat, he “just kind of grinned. Didn’t say much more,” John said.

John also asked Hannah why she was soaking her feet in a lake filled with fish. She didn’t respond to that question. But as DiMaggio and Hannah prepared to leave he heard her say, “Looks like we’re all in trouble now.”

“I had no idea what she meant,” John said. “It was loud enough to hear but it was mostly to herself.”

He noticed that the pair’s camping gear looked brand new.

“That was another flag that just wasn’t normal or natural,” John said.

The campers spent the night in the woods. The next day, when they returned home the Johns saw a news alert about the missing girl on television. Mark John, who is a former sheriff, called a friend in the Idaho State Police. 

“We were all on pins and needles wondering what was going on and what was happening.  You get all sorts of thoughts that go through your head like, 'Did we alert them to the point where he’s going to do something stupid?'” John said.

“We were extremely happy when we found out it turned out the way it did.” 


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Twitter: @PalomaEsquivel

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