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California kidnap victim recounts ordeal on social media

California kidnap victim recounts ordeal on social media

Just days after her rescue, 16-year-old kidnapping victim Hannah Anderson answered dozens of questions from strangers. Photo: Reuters

SAN DIEGO (Reuters) – Just days after her rescue in an Idaho wilderness, 16-year-old kidnapping victim Hannah Anderson appears to have returned to a social media site she frequented before her abduction to answer dozens of questions from strangers about her week-long ordeal.

A series of online chat posts attributed to Hannah, but which could not be immediately verified by Reuters, said she did not try running from her captor because he threatened to kill her, and that the kidnapper, James Lee DiMaggio, “deserved what he got” when he was slain.

The posts also seem to reveal details about the slayings of Hannah’s mother and brother, whose remains were found in the ruins of DiMaggio’s house at the outset of her disappearance. Hannah posted that they burned to death in a fire DiMaggio set off with a timer device after taking her captive.

The San Diego-area teenager has remained in seclusion since her abductor, a 40-year-old longtime family friend who worked as a computer technician, was shot dead by FBI agents who rescued her on Saturday.

On Monday night, she appeared to surface on the website ask.fm, a chat platform that lets users create a profile in which they can answer questions posed anonymously by others.

CBS News said the mother of one of Hannah’s closest friends confirmed that the postings, accompanied by photos Hannah apparently took of herself, were hers.

They appeared on the ask.fm page for hannahbanana722 – a number that coincides with her July 22 birthday – from the San Diego suburb of Lakeside, where she lived with her mother, Christina Anderson, 44, and younger brother, Ethan. Her father, Brett Anderson, resides in Tennessee.

Cellphone snapshots of Hannah posted on the site on Monday night and a history of chats documented before the kidnapping – with a 10-day gap that began the day she was last seen – appeared to support the postings’ authenticity.

By Wednesday morning, the account had been disabled. The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department said it was aware of the posts but declined to comment on them. Members of the Anderson family could not immediately be reached for comment.

In the postings, Hannah said she was relating her account to dispel misunderstandings about the ordeal, including suggestions that she willingly accompanied her abductor.

Asked why she didn’t run, she answered: “He would have killed me.”

‘HE TRICKED US’

The search for Hannah began after authorities found her mother and 8-year-old brother dead in DiMaggio’s burned-out home east of San Diego on the night of August 4. Investigators have not said how Christina and Ethan Anderson were killed.

Asked if they were burned alive, Hannah answered: “Yes.” She said she was not at the house when her mother was killed. Asked where she was when the “fire went off,” she replied, “On the road to Idaho.”

DiMaggio, she wrote, had somehow rigged his home to “catch on fire at a certain time.”

Hannah said that she, her brother and mother had been lured to DiMaggio’s home by a ruse: “He told us he was losing his house because of money issues, so we went up there one last time to support him … but he tricked us.”

Describing how she ended up separated from her mother and brother before her abduction, she said, “He tied them up in the garage,” but she declined to give further details.

NBC News reported on Wednesday night that according to newly unsealed search warrants in the case, police believe DiMaggio tortured Christina and Ethan Anderson before killing them. The documents show that a crow bar and blood were found near Christina Anderson’s body, NBC said.

DiMaggio and Hannah were ultimately tracked down on Saturday in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness in rural Idaho after a group of horseback riders reported that they had encountered the pair there earlier in the week.

Authorities said DiMaggio was armed with a rifle and had fired at least one shot before he was killed by FBI agents in a confrontation. Preliminary autopsy results found he was struck by at least five gunshots to his head, chest and extremities, said Nathan Hess, the coroner for Valley County, Idaho.

In the ask.fm posts, Hannah said she did not try alerting the group of riders that she was in distress because, “I had to act calm. I didn’t want them to get hurt. I was scared that he would kill them.”

She also wrote: “He had a gun and threatened to kill me and anyone who tried to help.”

Asked if she could explain why DiMaggio did what he did, she responded, “Because he’s physco (sic).”

Authorities have not publicly discussed any possible motives for DiMaggio’s actions. A family friend has said the suspect developed an apparent infatuation with the high school girl that made Hannah feel uncomfortable.

“Why didn’t you tell your parents he creeped you out,” she was asked online. Her answer: Because he was a close family friend and her dad’s best friend and, “I didn’t want to ruin anything between them.”

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