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Family of Hannah Anderson's alleged abductor looks for explanation

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Revelations about how James Lee DiMaggio allegedly carried out the abduction of teen Hannah Anderson after killing her mother and brother have been tough to square with a man known for his loyalty, a family spokesman says.

Another round of search warrants released in San Diego on Thursday suggested that within hours of finding DiMaggio’s burned-out house and garage in rural Boulevard, investigators suspected him of setting separate blazes, possibly with timing devices.

The fires on the property in eastern San Diego County were discovered late in the afternoon of Aug. 4. The fires were set separately, possibly with an accelerant, arson specialists said in seeking one warrant. One fire could not have migrated to the other location, they said.

Once the warrants were issued by a Superior Court judge, investigators found what is called an "arson wire" used to time the ignition of a fire.

But Andrew Spanswick, a spokesman for DiMaggio’s family, told The Times this week that the narrative of a man bent on death and destruction was a far cry from the person described by his sister as the “kindest, sweetest soul that you could ever imagine meeting.”

In an interview with KGTV-TV (Channel 10) in the days immediately after Hannah disappeared, DiMaggio’s sister, Lora Robinson, pleaded with the public to resist judgment as few details were known at the time.

She said the media narrative of a man obsessed with a 16-year-old he’d known from birth was off-base.

“They were great friends, they’ve known each other for years,” Robinson told the San Diego ABC affiliate. “My children played with Hannah when she was little … they had a lot of good times together.

“He took care of them as if they were his own.”

Robinson, her husband and two teenage children have since stayed out of the media spotlight, referring all interview requests to Spanswick, who was friends with DiMaggio for seven years.

After trying to defend her brother against accusations of being a sexual predator, Robinson and her family fielded death threats, Spanswick said.

“We’re trying to keep them safe -- place them in a separate environment,” he said. “They were being hounded by the media.”

Spanswick also defended DiMaggio’s relationship with Hannah, saying it was paternal, not sexual.

“Clearly, his intentions have always been to be a father figure,” he said.

In seclusion, DiMaggio’s family is now trying to come to terms with a new narrative that not only includes allegations of kidnapping Hannah, but also the brutal murders of her mother, Christina Anderson, and 8-year-old brother, Ethan.

An investigator alleged in a search warrant that DiMaggio tortured them both, although he did not elaborate how.

Spanswick said that while DiMaggio's family isn't trying to excuse what happened, it's important to them to try to find some sort of explanation to achieve a sense of closure.

“Condemning doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still look for an explanation,” he said.

Also included in the search warrants were revelations that DiMaggio and Hannah had 13 exchanges over the phone prior to her alleged kidnapping. 

Investigators also reported finding empty boxes of ammunition, camping gear, a camping map of Yosemite National Park and a note whose contents were not disclosed.

The warrants suggest that by the time the fires started on his property, the 40-year-old DiMaggio had already abducted Hannah and was speeding northward in his blue Nissan, using death threats to keep her from trying to escape.

After a six-day multistate manhunt, it all ended Saturday in a deadly confrontation with FBI agents at DiMaggio's campsite in an Idaho wilderness.

An Idaho coroner this week said DiMaggio was shot “at least” five times and died at the scene.

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jason.wells@latimes.com

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