Kidnapped California teenager says captor made her play Russian roulette

Reuters News
Posted: Oct 10, 2013 6:43 PM

By Dan Whitcomb

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A San Diego teenager who was kidnapped in August by a family friend after he killed her mother and brother said in a TV interview on Thursday that her captor forced her to play Russian roulette before drugging her and driving her to Idaho.

Hannah Anderson told the "Today" show that on the day of her abduction James Lee DiMaggio picked her up from cheerleading camp at a local high school. She said DiMaggio seemed "perfectly normal," until he arrived at his home 25 miles east of San Diego.

"When I got into the house, he handcuffed me and zip-tied my feet and then sat me down on the couch and told me what his plan was," Anderson, 16, told "Today."

That plan, the teenager said, involved DiMaggio driving her to Idaho to carry his backpacks to a river in the wilderness, where he told her he intended to live.

Anderson said DiMaggio, 40, assured her that he would get her back home and that "everyone was going to live their normal lives and that his intention was that no one was going to be hurt. No one is going to die."

The high school student said DiMaggio assured her that her mother, Christina, and 8-year-old brother Ethan were alive. But Anderson said DiMaggio's behavior alarmed her.

"When we got into the house, after he told me the plan, he made me play Russian Roulette with him, sitting on the couch," she said. "And when it was my turn I started crying and was freaking out. And he said, 'Do you want to play?' And I said 'no.' And I started crying and he was like 'OK' and he stopped.

Anderson said DiMaggio then gave her two sleeping pills. After taking them, she did not awake until they were in Idaho.

The bodies of Christina Anderson, 44, and her son Ethan were found in DiMaggio's home, which was found burning on August 4.

DiMaggio was shot to death by FBI agents less than a week later when they raided his camp at a mountain lake in the remote River of No Return Wilderness in Idaho. Hannah Anderson was rescued and airlifted from the woods by helicopter.

During the "Today" interview, Anderson said DiMaggio, whom she had known her entire life, had been "like family" to her, but described trying to distance herself from him after he forbid her from bringing boys to his home because he said he had a "crush" on her.

"He told me, he said: 'It's not that I don't want your friends up here, it's that I don't want to see you kissing your friends or anything like that because I have crush on you ... a crush as in a friend, like family, like I care about you,'" Anderson said.

"After that, it just got really awkward around him."

Authorities have not publicly disclosed possible motives for DiMaggio's actions. A family friend has said that DiMaggio developed an apparent infatuation with Hannah Anderson.

(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Tim Gaynor and Stacey Joyce)