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Abducted Calif. teen reunited with her father

1:51 PM, Aug 12, 2013   |    comments
Hannah Anderson
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The abducted California teen who was taken on a harrowing journey into the Idaho wilderness has been reunited with her father after FBI agents, tipped by four campers on horseback, rescued her and killed her kidnapper, James DiMaggio.

The grandparents of 16-year-old Hannah Anderson told KSWB-TV, the Fox News affiliate in San Diego, that she was reunited with her father, Brett Anderson, on Sunday in Idaho.

"It's now healing time," Brett Anderson said in a text message to CNN shortly after Hannah was rescued Saturday.

Her maternal grandmother, Sara Britt, added that joy over the teen's recovery will now give way to mourning the teen's mother and younger brother.

"We have to focus on burying my daughter and my grandson who was murdered, and that's something we'll take a long time to deal with. But the positive note is Hannah coming home," Britt said.

San Diego Sheriff William Gore said Hannah "appears to be in good shape.''

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

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.

"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.

The 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 8-year-old brother, Ethan. Their bodies were found in DiMaggio's burning home near the Mexican border.

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.

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.

Mark John, 71, a former Gem County, Idaho, sheriff who was riding horses with his wife and another couple last week, said he talked twice with the pair, who had been the object of a massive FBI manhunt across the West.

"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.''

John said 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.

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

Mike Young, who was part of the foursome on horseback, said most people on the trail are friendly, but that these two clearly did not want to talk.

"She was trying to turn her face away. ... Then, when we went up the trail a little ways, I turned around and told these guys that there was something wrong there. It just wasn't right," he told reporters, according to KTVB-TV.

When the riders passed the pair again as they came back down the trail later, they once again tried to start a conversation, joking with Hannah about dipping her feet in the water.

That, said John, prompted a cryptic message from Hannah. According to Mark, "She said, 'Looks like we're all in trouble now.' Or, 'We're in real trouble now.' And then, we rode on out."

Christa John said the pair followed them on foot as they headed down to a lake. "She was just sitting there and I just felt I should go over and kind of see if she needed help and make contact with her," Christa John said. "I'm glad I didn't because that could have turned out terribly wrong for the four of us."

Sara Britt, Hannah's grandmother, 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."

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."

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

By William M. Welch and Doug Stanglin

USA Today

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