SAN DIEGO -- The 16-year-old California girl who was kidnapped by a family friend clarified some details Thursday about her relationship with her kidnapper, including that they exchanged texts beforehand, not phone calls as police have said, and that they wrote each other letters a year ago when she wasn’t getting along with her mother.
The girl, Hannah Anderson, was kidnapped by family friend James Lee DiMaggio this month after he killed her mother and Hannah’s 8-year-old brother at his rural house east of San Diego and fled with the teen.
According to search warrants, Anderson exchanged about 13 phone calls with DiMaggio before she was picked up from cheerleading practice that day. But Anderson told NBC’s “Today” show in an interview that aired Thursday that communications were texts, not calls, and she was telling DiMaggio where to pick her up.
The San Diego County Sheriff’s said it could not immediately explain the discrepancy.
Authorities have also said that letters from Anderson were found at the home. Anderson said that they were written about a year ago when she was having trouble getting along with her mother and she sought advice from DiMaggio.
“They were just to help me through tough times,” she said in her first news interview since her rescue.
Anderson was kidnapped Aug. 4 and rescued days later by FBI agents during a shootout in the Idaho wilderness that killed DiMaggio.
Investigators say DiMaggio killed 44-year-old Christina Anderson and her son, Ethan, whose bodies were discovered after DiMaggio set fire to his home in Boulevard, a tiny town 65 miles east of San Diego.
San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore has called Hannah “a victim in every sense of the word.” He has declined to discuss a possible motive and investigators haven’t publicly addressed other aspects of the case, including why the family went to DiMaggio’s home, how Christina and Ethan Anderson died, the nature of letters from Hannah that were discovered in DiMaggio’s home and how Hannah was treated in captivity.
DiMaggio used a timer to set the fire, giving him a 20-hour jump on authorities, San Diego County Sheriff’s Department Jan Caldwell said.
Meanwhile, DiMaggio’s family wants paternity tests to determine if the suspect fathered the children, a spokesman said Wednesday, a suggestion that was quickly rebutted by the victims’ family.
Andrew Spanswick, a spokesman for the family of James Lee DiMaggio, said rumors have circulated on social media that DiMaggio fathered the children and that it was “a little strange” that the suspect named the girl’s paternal grandmother as his life insurance beneficiary.
Lora Robinson, DiMaggio’s sister and lone survivor of his immediate family, collected DNA from her brother and wants samples from Hannah Anderson and her brother to determine paternity, Spanswick said. She has not yet asked for the samples but intends to at a later date.
“The biggest issue is, I think, that Lora wants closure on the case,” Spanswick said. “As Lora has heard these rumors, she would like to confirm whether they are true or not.”
Anderson family spokeswoman Stacy Hess said DiMaggio didn’t meet the children’s father and mother, Brett and Christina Anderson, until Christina was six months pregnant with Hannah.
Hess said investigators used Brett Anderson’s DNA to confirm the identity of 8-year-old Ethan Anderson, whose remains were found in the rubble of DiMaggio’s burned home.
She said Brett Anderson finds the suggestion that DiMaggio fathered the two children “disgusting.” The family hasn’t received a DNA request directly from DiMaggio’s family, she said.
Spanswick said the family’s interest in paternity tests, which was first reported by KGTV in San Diego, has been “blown way out of proportion” by the media.
“It’s just for clarity,” he said.