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Hannah Anderson case: Did DiMaggio follow his father's violent path?

August 13, 2013|By Jason Wells and Emily Foxhall

Authorities said there may never be a "rational explanation" for James Lee DiMaggio's kidnapping of Hannah Anderson, but some are drawing eerie parallels with his father's criminal history.

Roughly 24 years ago, when James Lee DiMaggio was a teenager at El Cajon Valley High School in San Diego County, his father had a violent breakdown after being spurned by a 16-year-old girl, the daughter of an ex-girlfriend, according to court records and news archives.

It was 1989, and James Everet DiMaggio had been lavishing attention on a teenager, at one point offering to whisk her away to a better life. When she turned him down, he broke into her family's house, tied her boyfriend up, and told them they were going to die as he handled his sawed-off shotgun, the woman recounted in an interview with CBS 8 in San Diego.

The woman, a former classmate of the younger DiMaggio, recalled the horrible consequences of being the object of his father’s desire.

"He said, ‘Don’t worry, it’ll be over quick.’ And I just remember pleading with him,” said the woman, whose identity CBS concealed.

She was able to escape by asking to use the restroom, after which the elder DiMaggio fled the scene, according to news accounts published at the time in the San Diego Union-Tribune.

It wasn't long before her classmate -- known as “Jimmy” -- was asked by his father to deliver a message to the girl at school: “He came up to me … saying his father was out and he’d be waiting for me after school.” 

That day, she said, she slipped out of school, changed her name and went into hiding. Her image was obscured in the newscast. 

The elder DiMaggio later pleaded guilty to first-degree burglary. Three other felony counts related to the incident were dismissed.

The altercation was reportedly precipitated by a fight with the girl's mother over a new car.

According to court records and media accounts at the time, the elder DiMaggio also served prison time for beating two people in a motel room after the three had allegedly shared crystal methamphetamine on Christmas Eve 1989.

More than two decades later, friends of 16-year-old Hannah Anderson said James Lee DiMaggio had a similar inappropriate infatuation. 

He allegedly told Hannah he had a crush on her. After that, Hannah reportedly told a friend that she was disturbed by DiMaggio’s disclosure and did not want to be alone with him.

But for six days, she was forced to endure what authorities described as "extreme" duress with threats and weapons, starting with her abduction in San Diego County on Aug. 4 and ending with a firefight that ultimately ended in DiMaggio’s death.

He died on the anniversary of his father's suicide 18 years earlier.

Authorities said the younger DiMaggio killed Hannah's mother, Christina Anderson, and 8-year-old brother, Ethan. He then abducted Hannah, which set off a six-day, multi-state manhunt.

San Diego County Deputy District Atty. Stephen Wadsworth, who prosecuted DiMaggio's father, told CBS 8, "It was almost a déjà vu ... It was weird."

It also brought back a flood a memories for the woman in the 1989 case.

The woman, who CBS 8 said is now a nurse, said it is important for Hannah to get all the support she needs.

Authorities at a news conference Monday said Hannah is back with family in San Diego, where she is getting counseling.

“I know she’s going to have a long road,” the woman said. “I just had to deal with the mental part, I didn’t lose anyone. I can’t even imagine that part.”


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