LAKESIDE (CBS/AP) — A missing teen and her 8-year-old brother, who may have been killed along with his mother, view the suspect in their disappearance as “an uncle,” according to investigators.
James Lee DiMaggio is now a suspect in the death of Christina Anderson, the abduction of her 16-year-old daughter and the possible death or abduction of her 8-year-old son.
Anderson’s body was found in DiMaggio’s burning home east of San Diego, near the remains of a child who may be Ethan Anderson.
Brett Anderson, who flew from Tennessee to San Diego on Tuesday, pleaded with 40-year-old DiMaggio to release his daughter, Hannah, saying, “You’ve taken everything else.”
“Jim, I can’t fathom what you were thinking. The damage is done,” he said outside San Diego County Sheriff’s Department headquarters after being interviewed by investigators.
DiMaggio was wanted on suspicion of murder and arson in a search that began in Southern California and spread to Mexico and neighboring states. Authorities said he may be headed to Texas or Canada.
“Hannah, we all love you very much. If you have a chance, you take it. You run. You’ll be found,” Brett Anderson said, declining to take questions after reading a short statement.
On Sunday night, authorities found the body of Christina Anderson, 42, near a dead dog when they extinguished flames at DiMaggio’s rural home. A child’s body was found later as they sifted through rubble in Boulevard, a remote hamlet 65 miles east of San Diego on the U.S.-Mexico border.
An autopsy on the child was performed Tuesday, but no positive identification was made, officials said.
“It is a possibility that it’s Ethan,” sheriff’s Lt. Glenn Giannantonio said. “Right now, we just don’t know and we’re praying that it isn’t Ethan.”
Sheriff’s investigators said Brett and Christina Anderson were close friends with DiMaggio and that he was like an uncle to their two children.
Christina Anderson’s father, Christopher Saincome, said he had seen DiMaggio two or three times and described him as a good friend of his son-in-law.
Brett Anderson joined hundreds of family, friends and neighbors at a candlelight vigil in the parking lot of El Capitan High School in Lakeside, an east San Diego suburb of 54,000 people, where his daughter is set to start her junior year. Pink paper cups stuffed between holes in the fence read, “Pray for Hannah”, and dozens of white, powder blue and pink balloons were let go into the air.
Hannah Anderson, a gymnast on her high school team, likes to dance and makes friends easily.
“You would never see her without a smile on her face,” said Marlee Friszell, 16, who attended Hannah’s birthday party last week.
Ethan Anderson likes to play football, baseball and go fishing, according to longtime neighbor, 17-year-old Cyrus Dawn.
Brett and Christina Anderson recently separated, Dawn said. Investigators called Brett Anderson her ex-husband, but he said they were still married.
An Amber Alert alerted freeway motorists, television viewers and cellphone subscribers to a blue Nissan Versa with California license plates that DiMaggio was believed to be driving. The FBI was participating in the investigation.
Monday marked the first time cellphone users were notified of a statewide Amber Alert in California through their phones. The alert system, which was introduced in December, sends messages automatically, based on the phone’s location.
Hannah is described as having blonde hair and blue eyes. She is 5 feet 7 inches tall and weighs about 115 pounds.
Ethan is described as 4 feet 11 inches tall, weighing about 65 pounds with sandy blonde hair.
DiMaggio is described as a White male with brown hair. He’s 5 feet 9 inches tall and weighs about 150 pounds.
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