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Hannah Anderson search took over small Idaho town

August 13, 2013|By Kate Mather

CASCADE, Idaho — The only sign that anything out of the ordinary happened in this quiet community sits on the southern edge of town.

The electronic sign outside Ben Wellington's real estate office flashes the time and temperature — the only one in the county to do so, he proudly noted. But starting Sunday morning, a new message was added to its rotation.

"Good job law enforcement."

The message could mean a few things, Wellington said. "Good job that you got him. Good job you saved her life."

"I just felt like I wanted to express my opinion. I wanted to recognize the law enforcement people," he said. "They put an end to this."

"This" was the multi-state manhunt that ended about 50 miles away from here Saturday, in a stretch of rugged backcounty authorities scoured after horseback riders spotted missing San Diego County teen Hannah Anderson and her abductor, James Lee DiMaggio.

The road that leads to the area where the pair was seen sits just within Cascade's northern limit, making the town of 1,000 residents the meeting point for hundreds of law enforcement officials and dozens of reporters.

What would have been normally a busy weekend with the usual tourists and area wildfires escalated to "an abnormal situation for Cascade," Mayor Rob Terry told The Times.

"We get a big influx of people that get here Friday and leave Sunday. Every fire season, we have helicopters at the airport that come in and take over," he said. "This isn't a major Type-A personality town. ... We have to roll with the flow.

"The whole issue was, unfortunately, this was 50 miles away from Cascade."

Diners were packed, hotels booked solid. Satellite trucks camped out at the fire station, awaiting news conferences.

"It was nuts," one man quipped Monday.

The frenzy ended Saturday, after two FBI teams raided the Morehead Lake campsite where DiMaggio and Hannah were staying. The girl was safely rescued and DiMaggio — suspected of killing Hannah's mother and 8-year-old brother in San Diego County before kidnapping the girl — was shot and killed.

"We were all relieved," said Debbie Gunderson, manager of the Ashley Inn. "Everybody was relieved. And grateful to all those people that came to help and that they were able to do it so quickly."

By Monday, the commotion was gone. Most of the law enforcement teams had cleared out. The reporters had moved on.

Terry laughed when he said he was glad the crowd had left.

"Basically it's all back to normal," he said.

Gunderson agreed. She said the town gets attention "every now and then," recalling a similar, albeit smaller, situation in 2007, when big wildfires raged nearby.

It "wasn't the best way to get on the map," she said of the DiMaggio manhunt. But, she admitted, "it was kind of fun to get the excitement."


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Twitter: @katemather

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