The grandmother of kidnapped teenager Hannah Anderson has said it was “fitting” that the family friend who officials believe abducted her was killed by law enforcement officers during the successful rescue operation.
James Lee DiMaggio, who sheriff’s officials have said had an “unusual infatuation” with 16-year-old Hannah, is suspected of killing the girl’s mother Christina Anderson, 44, and brother Ethan, 8, by setting fire to his house near San Diego on Aug. 3. He is then believed to have kidnapped Hannah.
DiMaggio was killed during a rescue attempt Saturday in the Idaho backcountry after he and Hannah were seen by two couples out riding earlier in the week.
Sara Britt, Hannah’s maternal grandmother, said death of DiMaggio - known by the Anderson family as "Uncle Jim" - had been for the best.
“The way it ended up for both Hannah and Jim. It’s fitting,” she told NBCSanDiego on Sunday.
“No one wants to go through years of jury trials and putting Hannah through any of that,” she added.
“So, you know, I wouldn’t want to see anyone dead, but it happened.”
Hannah was transported to a hospital after being rescued.
Sara Britt’s husband, Ralph Britt, told the station earlier that the family had known DiMaggio for years.
“It was just a complete shock … Let it serve as a warning, that’s all we can say,” he said.
DiMaggio had a “close platonic relationship” with Christine Anderson, according to sheriff’s officials.
She and her husband Brett Anderson had recently separated.
Brett Anderson was “elated” that Hannah was alive, San Diego Sheriff Bill Gore said.
Relatives were waiting to hear what had happened on the night Christine Anderson and Ethan died and during the following days.
“We don’t know what she saw or heard. Hannah is the only person who knows what happened that night,” Ralph Britt said on NBC’s TODAY.
The breakthrough in the hunt for Hannah came on Wednesday morning, when two couples traveling on horseback came across DiMaggio and the girl.
“She kinda had a scared look on her face. I just had a gut feeling about him,” Mike Young, who owns a ranch in Sweet, Idaho, said at a Sunday afternoon press conference.
“They weren’t friendly, and they didn’t talk,” said Mark John, a rancher and ex-sheriff.
Both couples were carrying guns when they met DiMaggio.
"He might have got one of us, but we would've got him," Mark John said.
John said after they got home, he saw the Amber Alert for Hannah on TV on Thursday and instantly recognized her. He called a friend with the Idaho State Police.
DiMaggio’s car, a Nissan Versa, was found covered with brush and without license plates the next day.
With air support and on horseback, investigators scoured the isolated area and figured out where he was holed up, moving in on Saturday.
Ada County sheriff’s spokeswoman Andrea Dearden told TODAY Sunday that agents were forced to land a two-and-a-half-hour hike away from DiMaggio’s campsite to avoid making him suspicious.
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.