LAKESIDE (AP) — Amber Alerts expanded to Oregon and Washington as authorities searched for a Southern California man suspected of abducting a 16-year-old girl and wanted in the death of the girl’s mother and possibly her 8-year-old brother.
Oregon state police said there was a possible sighting of James Lee DiMaggio’s blue Nissan Versa in northeast California near Alturas on Wednesday, followed by another about 50 miles along the same highway near Lakeview, in south-central Oregon.
Investigators have said DiMaggio may be headed to Texas or Canada with 16-year-old Hannah Anderson and possibly her 8-year-old brother, Ethan, though investigators said a charred body discovered along with the mother could be the boy.
Also Wednesday, a friend of Hannah Anderson said DiMaggio told Hannah he had a crush on her and would date her if they were the same age.
DiMaggio explained that he didn’t want the girls to think he was weird in an effort to defend himself after noticing they exchanged glances, 15-year-old Marissa Chavez said. She said he spoke while driving them home from a high school gymnastics meet a couple months ago.
Hannah Anderson asked Chavez to join her from then on whenever DiMaggio, 40, drove her to meets.
“She was a little creeped out by it. She didn’t want to be alone with him,” Chavez said.
DiMaggio was like an uncle to Hannah and 8-year-old Ethan. He was very close with their parents for years.
On Sunday night, authorities found the body of 42-year-old Christina Anderson when they extinguished flames at DiMaggio’s rural home. A child’s body was found as they sifted through rubble in Boulevard, a tiny town 65 miles east of San Diego on the U.S.-Mexico border.
The child’s body has not been identified but it may be Ethan’s, sheriff’s Lt. Glenn Giannantonio said late Tuesday.
Christina Anderson’s father, Christopher Saincome, said Wednesday that his daughter visited DiMaggio’s home last weekend to say goodbye before he moved to Texas. DiMaggio, who works as a telecommunications technician at The Scripps Research Institute in San Diego, was a regular presence at the Anderson family apartment in Lakeside, a suburb of 54,000 people.
“He must have had this planned,” Saincome said.
Saincome said nothing seemed amiss when he called his daughter at work Friday to let her know she didn’t call on his birthday. Anderson, a medical assistant, said she would call back that night but never did.
Investigators had no evidence that the relationship between DiMaggio and the missing girl was more than friendly.
“We’re not looking into that directly at this point,” Giannantonio said.
DiMaggio is wanted on suspicion of murder and arson in a search that began in Southern California and spread to Mexico and neighboring states.
DiMaggio’s sister, Lora Robinson, told U-T San Diego that the allegations against her brother were “completely out of character.” She said he spent four years in the Navy, left military service to care for her after their mother died of cancer and volunteered rescuing animals.
“He is the kindest person in the world,” Robinson said.
She told ABC’s “Good Morning America” that she believed her brother was also a victim of foul play, along with the Andersons.
“He tried to take care of those kids, and he took care of them as if they were his own,” Robinson said.
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