Kidnapping victim Hannah Anderson, 16, spoke out in her first television interview since she was rescued, aired on NBC’s “Today” show Thursday morning. She credited the Amber Alert system for helping her rescue, saying she had no idea so many people were looking for her. She spoke about her previous communications with her captor, James DiMaggio, 40, who was a family friend.
Search warrants show Anderson and DiMaggio exchanged text messages on the day she was kidnapped, August 4, before DiMaggio killed her mother and brother. Anderson explained that DiMaggio was supposed to pick her up from cheerleading camp. DiMaggio was so close to the family that the Anderson children called him “uncle.”
She also explained that letters exchanged between her and DiMaggio about a year ago were about problems she was having getting along with her mother. “Me and him would talk about how to deal with it, and I’d tell him how I felt about it,” she said. “He helped me through it. They weren’t anything bad. They’re just to help me through tough times.”
Detectives had found the letters in DiMaggio’s burned California home where Christina Anderson, 44, and Ethan Anderson, 8, were found dead. DiMaggio was fatally shot by federal officers as Hannah was rescued. DiMaggio had taken her into the Idaho wilderness. In her interview with NBC, she thanked the horseback riders who had encountered her and DiMaggio on a trail and alerted authorities, leading to her rescue.
She said: “In the beginning I was a victim, but now knowing everyone out there is helping me, I consider myself a survivor instead.”
“My mom raised me to be strong,” she told NBC.
Anderson went online days after she was rescued to answer questions through Ask.fm. She explained what happened on the night she was kidnapped: “He [DiMaggio] told us he was losing his house because of money issues so we went up there one last time to support him, and to have fun riding go karts up there but he tricked us.”
Anderson didn’t find out that her mother and brother had died until she was rescued. “I wish I could go back in time and risk my life to try and save theirs. I will never forgive myself for not trying harder to save them,” she wrote. DiMaggio had ignored her requests for food and “threatened to kill me and anyone who tried to help,” she said.
Some people have criticized Anderson’s use of social media in the days following her rescue. She addressed those criticisms in her interview Thursday.
“I didn’t know people could be so cruel,” she said. She said she was able to connect with friends through social media and “It just helps me grieve.”
She said she posts “pictures to show how I’m feeling.”
“I’m a teenager. I’m gonna go on it.”