Rescued teen Hannah Anderson to be reunited with dad - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Rescued teen Hannah Anderson to be reunited with dad

Posted: Updated:
By Alastair Jamieson and Becky Bratu, NBC News

Teenager Hannah Anderson is due to be reunited with her "elated" father on Sunday for the first time since a family friend allegedly killed her mother and brother and took off into the wildnerness with her.

The 16-year-old was rescued Saturday afternoon in a remote area of Idaho, where kidnapping and murder suspect James Lee DiMaggio, 40, was killed by law-enforcement, authorities said.

The teenager was being examined at a hospital in Boise while relatives celebrated her rescue.

"We're just so relieved," said the girl's grandmother Sara Britt outside her home in Santee, Calif.

The family said they are waiting to learn the details of Hannah's six-day ordeal.

"We don't know what she saw or heard. Hannah is the only person who knows what happened that night," grandfather Ralph Britt said on TODAY.

The grandmother added that joy over Hannah's recovery will now give way to mourning for her mother and brother.

"We had to put the murder of Ethan and Tina on hold in the back of our minds because we had to totally focus on Hannah," Britt said. "So now we can take the time to grieve my daughter and grandson.''

Officials suspect that DiMaggio set fire to his own house last Sunday, killing Hannah's 8-year-old brother, Ethan, and their mother, Christina Anderson, 44.

They suspect he then kidnapped Hannah, setting off a search that expanded to Canada and Mexico and saw Amber Alerts issued in several states.

A break came when a horseback rider spotted a middle-aged man and a teenage girl hiking in the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness and later realized they were the subjects of a manhunt.

Federal and local law enforcement spent Saturday combing the wilderness after his DiMaggio's car, a Nissan Versa, was found Friday covered with brush and without license plates.

With air support and on horseback, they scoured the isolated area, dotted by only a few scattered cabins and limited cell phone service and figured out where DiMaggio was holed up.

The rescue was "very challenging," Ada County, Idaho sheriff's department spokeswoman Andrea Dearden said Sunday.

She told TODAY that agents were forced to land a two-and-a-half-hour hike away from where the pair's campsite had been spotted in order to secure the girl's safety.

She declined to discuss details of the operation or whether DiMaggio had fired at agents, saying that a review team would investigate the suspect's death.

"Hannah is safe and that was our first priority from the very beginning," said Valley County Sheriff Patty Bolen at a press conference Saturday. 

Hannah's father, Brett Anderson, was "elated" his daughter was found alive, San Diego Sheriff Bill Gore said.

When law-enforcement told him Hannah was safe, he called the Britts and told them to come over. They made the long drive not knowing whether they would get the best or worst news.

"He said Hannah was safe and Jim was dead — then hugs, joy. We were so happy," Ralph Britt said.

Sheriff's officials told NBC San Diego that Christina Anderson, recently separated from her husband, had a "close platonic relationship" with DiMaggio. He had an "unusual infatuation" with Hannah, they said.

Marissa Chavez, 15, a friend of Hannah's, told The Associated Press that a couple of months ago she witnessed DiMaggio tell Hannah he had a crush on her and would date her if they were the same age.

"She was a little creeped out by it. She didn't want to be alone with him," Chavez told the AP.

Ralph Britt said the family had known DiMaggio for years and never had any inkling that he could pose a threat.

"It was just a complete shock. He was Uncle Jim," he said. "We've known him for years….Let it serve as a warning, that's all we can say."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Powered by Frankly