CASCADE, Idaho — The search for Hannah Anderson, 16, ended happily yesterday when the teen was recovered uninjured and her suspected abductor, James Lee DiMaggio, 40, was shot dead by cops.
“Hannah is safe, and that was our first priority from the very beginning,” said Sheriff Patti Boden of Valley County, Idaho, where the dramatic rescue took place.
Anderson’s father was “elated” that his daughter was found alive, said San Diego, Calif., Sheriff William Gore.
Officials said the girl has no physical injuries and will need counseling, but did not otherwise immediately discuss her condition.
SAFE AND SOUND: Law-enforcement officers converged on Idaho’s roadless wilderness in the search for Hannah Anderson (above), 16, who was freed, and abductor James Lee DiMaggio (below), who was killed.
Authorities had first spotted the campsite of the girl and her abductor from a surveillance plane. DiMaggio was shot by an FBI tactical agent near Moorhead Lake during a confrontation at around 5:15 p.m., the sheriff said.
About 150 FBI agents, some 100 US marshals, and scores of local law officers had spent the day combing through Idaho’s rugged and mountainous Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness, the largest roadless area in the lower 48 states.
In all, the search for Hannah and her captor had spanned three states.
Authorities believed DiMaggio to be armed and dangerous, and so volunteers who know the area best — from the local search-and-rescue team — were not used in the search.
“You can’t have untrained folks out there. They have to have law-enforcement training,” said Jason Pack, an FBI special agent from the agency’s national press office in Washington, DC, before Anderson was found.
Federal law prohibits motorized vehicles from going into the area. Instead, searchers hiked or rode horseback, aided by trained search dogs.
“It’s called the River of No Return for a reason,” said Mike Medberry, 57, a writer and backpacking enthusiast who hiked in the area three summers ago. “It’s harsh and rugged, with steep terrain, lots of downed logs and thick brush.”
DiMaggio was suspected of killing Hannah’s mother, Christina Anderson, 44, and her brother, Ethan Anderson, 8, whose bodies were found last Sunday night in DiMaggio’s burning house in California near the Mexican border.
DiMaggio’s car was found Friday morning about 40 miles east of the tiny town of Cascade, Idaho, parked where the dirt road ends and the Sand Creek trailhead enters the wilderness area. Officers from San Diego planned to search the vehicle for clues yesterday.
The discovery of the car came about two days after a horseback rider reported seeing the man and girl hiking in the area.
The discovery launched a massive search, although there had been no other reported sightings of the pair since Wednesday.
The area is bisected by the Middle Fork of the Salmon River, a wild waterway that winds through steep canyons and dense forests. The river is extremely popular with recreationists.
But away from the river, it’s easy to disappear, said Jared Hopkinson, the owner of Rocky Mountain River Tours in Stanley, Idaho.
“If you wanted to go days without being seen, that’s the place to do it,” Hopkinson said.
Law-enforcement officials in San Diego have noted that DiMaggio bought camping gear a few weeks ago.
DiMaggio was close to the family. Brett Anderson, Hannah’s and Ethan’s father, has described him as a best friend and said his children thought of him as an uncle.
Authorities have said DiMaggio had an “unusual infatuation” with Hannah.