Hannah Anderson Details Terror-Filled Kidnapping Ordeal, Says Captor Had "Weird" Crush

By Torey Van Oot
|  Friday, Oct 11, 2013  |  Updated 8:10 PM PDT
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Kidnapping survivor Hannah Anderson revealed for the first time Thursday new details about the terror she experienced at the hands of a longtime family friend, saying captor James DiMaggio admitted to having a "crush" on her before killing her mother and brother and forcing her into he Idaho wilderness.

The San Diego teen said in an exclusive interview on "Today" that she was restrained, drugged and falsely assured that her family would be okay by DiMaggio, who threatened to kill her if she tried to run away or call for help. 

Hannah, who was located and rescued about a week after the charred bodies of her mother and brother were discovered in DiMaggio's San Diego-area home, said DiMaggio put her in handcuffs, zip tied her feet and told her he was taking her to Idaho where he planned to live after picking her up from cheerleading practice on Aug. 4.

"He made me play Russian Roulette with him sitting on the couch," the 16-year-old told Savannah Guthrie. "When it was my turn, I started crying, like was freaking out and he said do you want to play and I said no and I started crying and he's like ok and he stopped."

Hannah said she was drugged with what she thinks was Ambien. When she woke up, she was in Idaho. DiMaggio told her that he had rigged a fire at his house but left her mother and brother in the garage with signs that would direct firefighters to rescue them before the flames could spread. She recalled hearing the muffled screams of her younger brother while still in DiMaggio's home.

"I heard him trying to yell upstairs but he was gagged so I couldn't do anything to help him," she said. "I was yelling his name, but I couldn't do anything."

The interview aired two months after authorities located and rescued Hannah in the Idaho wilderness after a nearly weeklong search that spanned six states. DiMaggio was fatally shot six times by FBI agents in that confrontation, the Idaho coroner said this week. 

Investigators believe DiMaggio tortured and killed Christina and Ethan Anderson, bludgeoning the mother in the head and leaving her bound and gagged according to a medical examiner's report, before kidnapping Hannah and setting a timed device to set his home ablaze.  Eight-year-old Ethan's body was burned beyond recognition, the report said.

Guthrie said her interview with Hannah would not discuss the more gruesome details in the case. 

The ordeal ended about a week after that discovery, when hikers in the Idaho back country spotted DiMaggio and Hannah and alerted authorities. More than 200 local, state and federal law enforcement officials joined in on the search of that area, eventually finding the pair near Morehead Lake on Aug. 10. 

Hannah recounted the time leading up to her rescue in the interview Thursday, including the encounter with the hikers who were responsible for saving her life. 

"Jim would say, 'Stay normal, if you say something I'll have to kill them,'" she recalled.

The hikers still sensed something was amiss and alerted authorities.

FBI agents who rescued Hannah swarmed the scene telling her to get down and wrapping her in a blanket. Once at the hospital, she was told that her mother, brother and kidnapper were all dead.

"When I got there, the the next night they came in and told me that they died and that Jim was dead, too, it kind of just didn't seem real and I just thought about it for a second and then I broke down," she said.

Anderson also addressed letters she had exchanged with DiMaggio ahead of the kidnapping, saying he provided an outlet for her to talk about her parents' recent divorce and "how to get through it" when she was having a difficult time getting along with her mom.

But that supportive relationship soured when he told her he was upset that she was spending time with a male friend and confided that he had what Hannah described as a "weird" crush. DiMaggio told her he didn't want her to bring a male friend to his house.

“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 a crush on you," Hannah said. "Not a crush that, like, feeling a crush as in -- like family, like I care about you.’”

After that, he would send her angry texts calling her rude and accusing her of trying to keep him out of his life.

Anderson, who exchanged emotional hugs on "Today" with the hikers credited with saving her life, said she is trying to move foward but is still "disgusted, shocked just mostly sick and angry" about what happened to her and her family.

"I miss them so much and sometimes it's like I wait for them to get home and then they're not there," she said about her mother and brother.

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