BOISE, Idaho — The horseback riders who encountered a missing California teenager and her abductor said Sunday that “red flags” went up for them because the pair seemed out of place and ill-equipped for the Idaho backcountry.
At a news conference in Boise, the four riders — two men and two women — said they came across Hannah Anderson, 16, and James Lee DiMaggio, 40, on Wednesday morning.
Mark John said the two weren’t friendly. He added that the girl was wearing pajamas or sweatpants and that the man was carrying only a light pack.
“They didn’t fit,” said John, 71, a former sheriff from Gem County. “He might have been an outdoorsman in California, but he was not an outdoorsman in Idaho. . . . Red flags kind of went up.”
John said that when he returned home he saw an Amber Alert for Anderson and contacted police.
DiMaggio was killed by authorities Saturday. He is suspected of killing Hannah’s mother and brother. Hannah was apparently not harmed.
FBI agents are processing evidence at the campsite in central Idaho’s Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness where they discovered Anderson and DiMaggio. Details about the operation that ended in Hannah’s rescue are being released slowly.
Law enforcement agents first spotted two people who looked like Anderson and DiMaggio on Saturday afternoon as they flew over the wilderness area in a plane, according to a statement from Ada County sheriff’s spokeswoman Andrea Dearden.
The air was filled with smoke blown in from distant wildfires, and that made flying and seeing the ground tough, she said. The law enforcement commanders decided to send in an FBI hostage rescue team immediately to try to get Hannah while they could.
The mountainous area is extremely steep, and the closest point where the helicopters could drop off the 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.
The FBI moved the teenager to an area where she could be picked up by a helicopter. The agency will not release details about what happened between DiMaggio and law enforcement officers at the campsite until an investigation is complete.
Mary Rook, special agent in charge of the FBI office in Salt Lake City, said the agency will continue to work with law enforcement officials in Idaho and California as the case transitions back to the San Diego Sheriff’s Department.
Hannah appeared to be uninjured and was taken to an Idaho hospital. Her father was expected to arrive in Idaho on Sunday to reunite with her.
The FBI said it was sending a team to investigate.
The campsite wasn’t far from where the horseback riders had spotted the pair.
The case began when the charred bodies of Hannah’s mother, Christina Anderson, 44, and 8-year-old brother, Ethan Anderson, were found in DiMaggio’s burning house outside San Diego, near the Mexican border.
DiMaggio was close to the family. Christina Anderson’s husband, Brett Anderson, has described him as a best friend and said the children thought of him as an uncle.
Authorities have said that DiMaggio had an “unusual infatuation” with Hannah, although her father said he never saw any strange behavior.
An Amber Alert was issued, and tips led investigators to Oregon after DiMaggio and the teenager were reportedly spotted there. But it wasn’t until John called in his tip that investigators found a major lead: DiMaggio’s car, hidden under brush at a trailhead on the border of the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness.
San Diego County Sheriff William D. Gore announced Hannah’s rescue and DiMaggio’s death at a news conference in California. He said members of his office notified Hannah’s father of her rescue.
“He was very relieved and very excited and looking forward to being reunited with his daughter,” Gore said.
Brett Anderson described a range of emotions in a text message to CNN.
“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.”