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Hannah Anderson defends high profile on social media

Calling herself a 'survivor' in TV interview, kidnap victim Hannah Anderson says social media let her communicate with friends.

August 22, 2013|By Kate Mather
  • Hannah Anderson arrives at a fundraiser in her honor in Lakeside, Calif., earlier this month to raise money for her family.
Hannah Anderson arrives at a fundraiser in her honor in Lakeside, Calif.,… (Howard Lipin / Associated…)

When Hannah Anderson was rescued from the Idaho wilderness nearly two weeks ago and her abductor killed by FBI agents, it seemed like a clear end to a case that had generated national attention.

Hannah's father told the media that she needed privacy to recover and mourn the deaths of her mother and brother at the hands of her kidnapper, a family friend named James DiMaggio.

It didn't work out that way.

Within hours of his statement, Hannah was sharing details of the ordeal, fielding hundreds of questions and comments from strangers on social media sites. She shared photos of herself, as well as random commentary on her favorite color (pink), Justin Bieber and life as a 16-year-old girl.

The public display drew even more attention to an already captivating case.

Investigators discovered letters from Hannah at DiMaggio's house and cellphone communications between them before the kidnapping. Also, it was revealed that DiMaggio left $112,000 in life insurance to Hannah's grandmother for her and the boy he allegedly killed. Then, his family asked for DNA samples to determine if he was Hannah's — or her brother's — biological father.

San Diego County Sheriff's Department officials have stressed that they believe Hannah was a victim and played no role in the crime.

Hannah has also fired back, telling skeptics on Facebook to "mind their own business" and "get a life."

"I can say and do what I want and I feel bad that it bothers you so much," she wrote on a "Prayers for Hannah Anderson" page.

On Thursday, Hannah's first interviews aired on the "Today" show — and she didn't back down. Calling herself a "survivor," Hannah said she considers social media an outlet that allowed her to communicate with friends.

"I connect to them through Facebook and Instagram ... it just helps me grieve… I post pictures to show how I am feeling."

"I'm a teenager," she said. "I'm gonna go on it."

But she also acknowledged that the criticism on the Internet was hurtful.

"I didn't know people could be so cruel," she said.

Hannah is now staying with family in San Diego County. The community has rallied behind her family, hosting fundraisers and cheering when the teenager made a brief appearance. She told NBC News she is trying to get back to a normal life, hanging out with friends and getting ready for the upcoming school year.

She added: "It's going to be a little overwhelming with everyone and their opinions."

DiMaggio's family and friends are also looking for closure and are struggling to understand why he would hurt a family he loved.

"A lot of things don't just add up. There isn't a sense of clear motive or understanding why he and Hannah were out in the woods. Why did he take her?" said Andrew Spanswick, the spokesman for DiMaggio's only sister. "Nobody's trying to make excuses. We're just trying to get to the bottom of what's going on."

DiMaggio was a longtime friend of the Anderson family. He met Brett and Christina Anderson when she was six months pregnant with daughter Hannah, an Anderson family spokeswoman said. The children called him Uncle Jim and often visited his eastern San Diego County home.

Authorities and family say DiMaggio lured the Andersons to his home in Boulevard for one last visit, telling them he was moving because his home was in foreclosure. It was a trap, they said.

DiMaggio killed Christina Anderson and 8-year-old Ethan, then laced his home with incendiary devices, authorities said.

By the time firefighters responded to flames at the property and found the bodies the night of Aug. 4, DiMaggio and Hannah were long gone.

A photo showed the two at a Border Patrol checkpoint 20 hours before.

The exact timeline of the killings and kidnapping remains one of the unanswered questions in the case. San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore has said that Hannah is "a victim in every sense of the word."

A spokeswoman later added: "Our follow-up investigation has not changed that sentence."

In the NBC News interview, Hannah did not discuss the events leading to her abduction or what transpired until her rescue. But she did dispute information in search warrants indicating that she and DiMaggio spoke on the phone 13 times before their phones were shut off.

Hannah said they weren't phone calls — they were texts about where to pick her up from cheerleading practice.

"He didn't know the address or where I was, so I had to tell him … just so he knew where to come get me," she said.

She also spoke about letters she wrote to DiMaggio that were recovered from his home.

Hannah said they were from a year ago, "when me and my mom weren't getting along very well."

"I'd tell him how I felt about it, and he'd help me through it," she said. "They weren't anything bad. They were just to help me through tough times."

Hannah had harsh words for her onetime confidant in some of her first social media comments after she was rescued from him.

She called DiMaggio a psycho, saying "he deserved what he got" when he was killed.

"Did u want to go with DiMaggio?" one person asked.

"No not at all," she replied.

"are u glad he's dead?"


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