Tipster: Man, girl seemed out of place in Idaho wild

6:31 PM, Aug 11, 2013   |    comments
James Lee DiMaggio, 40, who apparently kidnapped Hannah Anderson, 16. was shot and killed by FBI agents Saturday at a campsite in the Idaho wilderness. (Photo: San Diego Sheriff's Department via AP)
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A horseback rider who reported spotting a missing California teen and a man wanted in the death of her mother and brother said Sunday that the pair looked badly out of place when he encountered them in rugged Idaho back country.

Mark John, a retired Idaho deputy sheriff who was riding horses with his wife and another couple last week, said he talked twice with the pair that had been the object of a massive FBI manhunt across the West.

MORE | Missing Calif. teen safe, to be reunited with dad
MORE | Sheriff confirms: DiMaggio dead, teen safe in manhunt

"Red flags kind of went up,'' John told reporters in Sweet, Idaho. "He might have been an outdoorsman in California, but he wasn't an outdoorsman in Idaho. ... He didn't fit.''

Authorities gave little information about the deadly encounter with the FBI on Saturday that led to the death of James DiMaggio, 40, and the successful rescue of Hannah Anderson, 16.

DiMaggio, of rural Boulevard, Calif., near the Mexico border, was killed by an FBI agent after law enforcement officials spotted his isolated campsite in Idaho's Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness Area.

Authorities had been tipped by John after he and his group returned home and learned from TV news that police agencies were looking for the pair.

John said he found them odd because they had entirely new gear, were wearing tennis shoes and appeared to be going in the wrong direction from where they told him they were headed. The girl appeared fine but scared, he and others in his group said, and was wearing inappropriate clothing -- either pajama pants or sweat pants and a sweat shirt, without rain gear, he said.

"These people did not want to talk to us whatsoever,'' John said.

John said he saw no sign that DiMaggio was armed. His party was armed with pistols, he said.

Hannah Anderson was to be reunited with her father on Sunday. San Diego Sheriff William Gore said she "appears to be in good shape.''

Hannah's grandmother, Sara Britt, said the family was ecstatic to hear she was safe and that DiMaggio was no longer a threat.

"No one wants to go through years of jury trial," Britt said. "I wouldn't want to see anyone dead, but it happened. We're excited to have our granddaughter home."

The tragic saga, which kicked off Amber Alerts in at least four states, began Aug. 4 when the San Diego Sheriff's Department said it appeared that DiMaggio had kidnapped Hannah after killing her mother, Christina Anderson, and her younger brother, Ethan. Their bodies were found in DiMaggio's burning California home near the Mexican border.

After her rescue Saturday, Hannah was taken to a hospital for evaluation. Her father, Brett Anderson, described a range of emotion in a text message to CNN, the Associated Press reported early Sunday.

"I am nervous excited saddened 4 my wife and son and worried what my daughter has been through," he wrote to the network. "It's now healing time. Keep us in your prayers."

Authorities said DiMaggio was "infatuated" with Hannah. Her father said his kids had called him "Uncle Jim" and that he had promised to watch over the family.

FBI victim specialists will work with Hannah and her family to get them the resources they need as they come to terms with the tragedy, FBI Special Agent Mary Rook said. "As grateful as we are that she is recovered safely, we also remember the victims who lost their lives," she said.

An Amber Alert had been issued for both children, but Friday night authorities confirmed that the remains found in DiMaggio's home matched the DNA of 8-year-old Ethan.

DiMaggio's Nissan Versa, covered with brush and missing its California license plates, was found Friday morning near a trailhead in the wilderness area. Authorities had suspected the car may have been booby-trapped, but no explosives were found. DiMaggio was considered armed and dangerous, authorities said.

About 200 law enforcement officials, mostly FBI agents, descended on a 320-square-mile section of the wilderness area, a mostly roadless, rugged, heavily wooded forest in central Idaho about 70 miles northeast of Boise.

Law enforcement agents flying over the area first spotted two people who looked like Anderson and DiMaggio on Saturday afternoon, Ada County Sheriff's spokeswoman Andrea Dearden said.

The mountainous area is extremely steep, and the closest point where the helicopters could drop a ground team was more than a two-hour hike away. The agents crept close to the camp, waited until DiMaggio and Hannah separated, and then moved in.

DiMaggio was shot and killed by an FBI tactical agent at the north end of Morehead Lake around 5:20 p.m. local time Saturday, Sheriff Gore said. The FBI moved the teen to an area where she could be picked up by a helicopter.

"Obviously we would've liked Mr. DiMaggio to surrender and face justice in the court of law, but that's not going to be the case," Gore said.

Teams from the Valley County and Ada County sheriff's departments, U.S Marshals Service, Homeland Security, Border Patrol, Idaho Army National Guard and Idaho State Police were part of the search-and-rescue operations, according to Dearden.

The rescue "truly was a joint effort," Gore said.

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