SAN DIEGO A 16-year-old California girl clarified some details Thursday about her relationship with the family friend who authorities say and 8-year-old brother before abducting the teen, including that her were about her being picked up at cheerleading practice.
Hannah Anderson was kidnapped by family friend James Lee DiMaggio on Aug. 4 after the killings at his rural house east of San Diego and fled with the teen, authorities have said. Forty-four-year-old Christina Anderson and her son Ethan'safter DiMaggio set fire to his home in Boulevard, investigators say. DiMaggio was killed days later in a shootout with authorities during which Anderson was rescued.
San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore 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, the nature of letters from Hannah that were discovered in DiMaggio's home and how Hannah was treated in captivity.
Anderson herself did not speak about the nature of her relationship with DiMaggio in an interview with NBC's "Today" show that aired Thursday but did try to explain for herself details that have emerged about communications between them.
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 "Today" that communications were texts, not calls, and she was telling DiMaggio where to pick her up.
The San Diego County Sheriff's Department said it could not immediately explain the discrepancy.
Anderson also said that the letters found in DiMaggio's home 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 had gone online a few days after she was rescued and answered questions on social media, a choice some questioned given her ordeal and subsequent media scrutiny. She said she was surprised by the sometimes cruel responses she got.
But she had a straightforward answer for why she talked online: "I'm a teenager."
She said she and her friends communicate the most often through social media including Facebook and Instagram and that talking to her friends helped her grieve.
She was at turns defiant and shaken in the "Today" interview, declaring that she's a survivor and plans to try to out for varsity gymnastics this year but breaking down when asked to describe her younger brother.
"In the beginning, I was a victim," she said, "but now knowing everyone out there was helping I consider myself a survivor instead."
FBI agents rescued Anderson during a shootout in the Idaho wilderness that killed DiMaggio days after she was kidnapped. She said in the interview that she had no idea there was a massive search effort underway for her but thanked all those who looked and who have supported her.
The interview gave no details about what happened after DiMaggio kidnapped her, including whether he told her that her mother and brother were killed or whether she tried to escape. Gore, the San Diego sheriff, has said Hannah didn't know about their deaths until she was rescued.
DiMaggio set fire to his home using a timer, giving him a 20-hour jump on authorities, San Diego County Sheriff's Department Jan Caldwell spokeswoman said.
Anderson spoke lovingly as she remembered her mother and brother, saying they both were strong and that her mother knew how to handle herself. She showed off newly painted nails, pink in honor of her mother and blue for her brother with their names on her toes.
Of her brother, she said, "He had a really big heart," before she choked up and wiped away tears.
Gore has called Hannah "a victim in every sense of the word."\
Meanwhile, DiMaggio's family, 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.