By Doug Stanglin and Michael Winter, USA TODAY
California murder and kidnap suspect James DiMaggio and his teenage hostage were spotted Wednesday evening in a remote wilderness area of Idaho by campers on horseback who did not realize until later that the pair were the subject of a multistate manhunt, the San Diego County sheriff said Friday.
The pair, described as in "good health," had vanished by the time investigators could return to the site, where they found DiMaggio's abandoned blue Nissan Versa on Friday morning, said Sheriff Bill Gore.
There was no indication that Hannah's 8-year-old brother, Ethan, was with them.
"As far as we know, it didn't appear (Hannah) was being held against her will," he said at a news briefing, without elaborating.
Gore confirmed that the car, which was found about 8 a.m. in "very difficult terrain" in the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness near Cascade, Idaho, was the same one described in AMBER Alerts by five states. It was covered by brush about six miles from where DiMaggio and Hannah were spotted with backpacks and a tent, about 70 miles northeast of Boise.
The sheriff said the California license plates had been removed, but investigators were able to identify it as DiMaggio's through the vehicle-identification number.
Thursday, a sheriff's official said that DiMaggio, a telecommunications technician at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, Calif., may have fled with homemade explosives and that may have planned to booby-trap the car.
Bomb experts will examine the car for possible explosives.
Authorities have not said whether DiMaggio might be also have firearms.
The sheriff said the campers spoke briefly to the man and teenager and Hannah and thought they "were out of place in that area." Only after leaving the backcountry did they learn of the manhunt "and put two and two together."
Friends said DiMaggio is an avid camper, and authorities said he bought gear about two weeks ago.
"It was obviously a planned event," San Diego sheriff's homicide Capt. Duncan Fraser said.
The 40-year-old DiMaggio is wanted in connection with the death of Hannah's mother, 44-year-old Christina Anderson, whose body was found Sunday night in DiMaggio's burned down home in Boulevard, Calif., east of San Diego.
Citing a source, the Los Angeles Times reported Thursday that Anderson died from blunt trauma and may have been hit with a crowbar.
The body of a child was also found, but investigators were unable to obtain enough DNA from the charred remains to make an identification. It is feared that it is the body of Ethan Anderson.
DiMaggio was a close friend of the family and known as "Uncle Jim."
Christina Anderson's father, Christopher Saincome, said his daughter and the children had visited DiMaggio's home to say goodbye before he moved to Texas, where he was born. A family friend said he was depressed because he had lost his home and had to leave.
Dozens of tips had poured in from Oregon and Washington, but none of the reported sightings had panned out, homicide Lt. Glenn Giannantonio said Thursday.
The focus on the Northwest intensified after Oregon State Police reported a possible sighting of DiMaggo's car Wednesday near Alturas, in northeast Oregon, and later about 50 miles along the same highway near Lakeview, in south-central Oregon. Fraser called the tip "very credible."
Brett Anderson, Anderson's husband and the children's father, flew from Tennessee to San Diego on Tuesday and pleaded with DiMaggio to release Hannah, saying, "You've taken everything else."
"Jim, I can't fathom what you were thinking. The damage is done," he said Tuesday night outside San Diego County Sheriff's Department headquarters.
He also appealed to Hannah, saying he loves her very much and "if you have a chance, you take it. You run. You'll be found."
Authorities have said DiMaggio had a "close platonic relationship" with Christina Anderson.
Although DiMaggio was like family to the children, Hannah's friends said he had recently expressed different feelings for the teen.
"He said he had a crush on her, but didn't mean it in an intimate way," 15-year-old Marissa Chavez told The San Diego Union-Tribune. "He said, 'If I was your age, I'd date you.'"
The comment made the girls uneasy, Marissa added.
She said DiMaggio took Hannah to Hollywood for a week-long "Sweet 16" birthday celebration. The trip was cut short, however, because DiMaggio became upset about the amount of time Hannah spent on her cellphone.
"After that she never responded to his texts and e-mails," Marissa told the San Diego newspaper.
Contributing: Associated Press