Suspect in California killings shot dead

James Lee DiMaggio's death is under investigation by the FBI. Picture: Reuters
James Lee DiMaggio's death is under investigation by the FBI. Picture: Reuters
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A CALIFORNIA fugitive suspected of killing a long-time friend and her son and kidnapping her 16-year-old daughter was shot dead in an Idaho wilderness by an FBI agent on Saturday and the girl rescued safely, law enforcement officials said.

James Lee DiMaggio, 40, was slain by an FBI agent while authorities were attempting to arrest him at Morehead Lake in the rugged Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness, San Diego county sheriff William Gore said.

The girl, Hannah Anderson, was found with DiMaggio at the lake, about 90 miles north-east of Boise, and rescued by authorities apparently in good health. She was taken by helicopter to an Idaho hospital and reunited with her father yesterday.

“Hannah is safe and that’s the best outcome we were hoping for, our top priority,” Andrea Dearden, spokeswoman for the Ada county sheriff’s department, said at a news briefing in Cascade, Idaho, just outside the wilderness park.

Mary Rook, spokeswoman for the FBI’s Salt Lake City, Utah, office, said DiMaggio and the teenager were located by agents from a special hostage rescue team at a campsite near the lake at about 5:20pm local time.

Ms Rook declined to provide more details of what she called a “very challenging situation” pending an investigation of the incident by an FBI shooting review team. It was not immediately clear if DiMaggio fired on the agents but there were no reports of law enforcement officers injured in the operation.

More than 150 law enforcement officers on foot and on horseback had descended on the wilderness after a group of people returning from a horseback ride in the back country told police that they had seen DiMaggio with the girl backpacking there on Wednesday.

One of the riders told police he exchanged casual pleasantries with the man and his young companion and saw no indication that she was in distress or being held against her will. He said that she and DiMaggio had behaved oddly but gave no cause for alarm.

Police searched the trail for clues and found DiMaggio’s car, stripped of its number plates and covered with brush.

Telecommunications technician DiMaggio had been the subject of a multi-state manhunt since the killing of Christina Anderson, 44, and eight-year-old Ethan and the abduction of Hannah, all of whom were last seen last Saturday.

The following day DiMaggio is suspected of having set his home on fire in the San Diego community of Boulevard.

The San Diego county sheriff’s office confirmed on Friday that the remains of a second body found at the house were Ethan’s. Police declined to say how Ms Anderson or her son were killed.

Police say DiMaggio bought camping equipment and other gear in the weeks leading up to his flight, suggesting that he had planned to hide out in the 2.3 million-acre, largely roadless Frank Church long before he fled with the teenager.

He has been described as a long-time friend of the Anderson family who was like an uncle to the children.

Authorities have said they have no evidence of a precipitating incident or circumstances that might have led to the killings and abduction.