Police seek public’s help in hunt for kidnapping, murder suspect
SAN DIEGO (CNN) — Authorities are counting on the public for clues that may lead them to kidnapping and murder suspect James DiMaggio, as the manhunt for the 40-year-old expands.
DiMaggio is believed to have kidnapped a 16-year-old girl and possibly an 8-year-old boy, authorities say. Their mother’s body was found in DiMaggio’s burned-down house in San Diego.
“We’ve got law enforcement agencies across the country looking for them and following up on tips that are being called in,” San Diego County Sheriff’s Department Lt. Glenn Giannantonio told CNN on Thursday. “We’ve received numerous tips, I’d say probably well over 100, possibly hundreds of tips from across the country. Every tip that can be followed up on has been followed up on or is currently being followed up on.”
On Wednesday, an Amber Alert was issued in Oregon for teen Hannah Anderson and her younger brother, Ethan.
The alert was broadcast after a possible sighting of a vehicle wanted in connection with the case, Oregon police said.
San Diego police later said that tip didn’t pan out, though Oregon state police said they hadn’t heard that.
An arrest warrant for murder has been issued for DiMaggio. In the event of his arrest, a judge has signed off on a $1 million bond, said San Diego County Superior Court spokeswoman Karen Dalton.
Also found in the DiMaggio’s burned home were charred human remains consistent with those of an 8-year-old child, Giannantonio said. The remains were so badly burned that carrying out a DNA test is proving difficult, he said.
It is possible that the remains are those of Ethan Anderson, but until there is a positive identification, the sheriff’s office is treating him as a missing person.
There have been some hints that DiMaggio was traveling to certain areas, but nothing has panned out, Giannantonio said.
“He could be anywhere at this point,” he said.
Ethan’s father made a public plea this week to the suspect. The father asked DiMaggio to release Hannah, who along with Ethan went missing after their mother was killed.
A massive manhunt is under way for DiMaggio, whom law enforcement authorities describe as a friend of the mother, Christina Anderson.
DiMaggio was the owner and sole resident of the burned home where Anderson’s body and the remains of the child were found.
“Jim, I can’t fathom what you were thinking. The damage is done. I’m begging you to let my daughter go. You’ve taken everything else,” Brett Anderson, the children’s father, said in an appearance before reporters.
“Hannah, we all love you very much. If you have a chance, you take it, you run. You’ll be found,” he said.
One witness said that DiMaggio had a crush on Hannah, but evidence to corroborate that has not yet surfaced, Giannantonio said.
The remains of Anderson, of Lakeside, California, were found while firefighters extinguished a blaze that broke out at DiMaggio’s home in the enclave of Boulevard around 8 p.m. Sunday.
Authorities believe she was killed. Her mother, Sara Britt, said Christina Anderson was 44 years old, not 42 as earlier reported.
Hannah Anderson was last seen at 3 p.m. Saturday at cheerleading practice, according to Britt and her other daughter, Jennifer Willis. Ethan was supposed to be at football practice at 8 a.m. Sunday but never showed, the two relatives said.
DiMaggio was like an uncle to the family, but he was having financial problems, the two relatives said.
“We know that they were lifelong friends. We’re not exactly sure what that relationship was. We don’t know if Hannah’s with him willingly or not. We just don’t know right now,” San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore told CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360” on Wednesday.
California authorities also issued an Amber Alert. Once they did, information was distributed to residents’ cell phones statewide through the Wireless Emergency Alert program, according to the California Highway Patrol.
The wireless program was instituted in December 2012, and this was the first time it had been used statewide, Highway Patrol public information officer Erin Komatsubara told HLN.
On HLN’s “Raising America” on Tuesday, the children’s aunt, Andrea Saincome, said that DiMaggio had known the family for years and that it would not have been unusual for the mother and children to be at his house.
“There was nothing out of the ordinary,” Saincome told HLN’s Christi Paul. “He seemed like a genuinely nice guy. He was close to the kids, and he was friends with my sister and my brother-in-law.”
The sheriff’s office released several photos of DiMaggio, and Giannantonio said he was believed to be driving a blue, four-door Nissan Versa with California license plate 6WCU986.
However, he might have switched vehicles, taken public transportation or be hunkered down somewhere, Giannantonio said.
He asked for the public’s help, as did Gore.
“We need all the eyes and ears out there we can get in trying to find both DiMaggio and hopefully those two kids,” the sheriff said. “Citizens should not try to interfere with this person at all. He’s already proven he’s a pretty dangerous fella.”
Anyone with information about the case is asked to call the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department Homicide Detail at 858-974-2321 or submit an anonymous tip to Crime Stoppers at 888-580-8477.