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DiMaggio likely planned to kill Hannah Anderson, family rep says

James Lee DiMaggioHannah AndersonSuicideFBI

A spokesman for the family of James Lee DiMaggio said he believes the 40-year-old planned to kill Hannah Anderson and his cat had FBI agents not gunned him down in the Idaho wilderness.

In an interview with The Times, Andrew Spanswick said that upon learning of the eerie parallels between the violent, suicidal history of DiMaggio’s father and what transpired after Hannah’s alleged abduction in San Diego County, he had a “bone-chilling” realization.

For starters, the day DiMaggio’s campsite in Idaho was spotted from the air was the 18th anniversary of his father’s suicide. Hannah is 16 – the same age as a girl who, 24 years ago, spurned the attention of his father, prompting a violent breakdown, according to Spanswick and court records.

All of this was revealed to him by DiMaggio’s sister, Lora Robinson, on Friday, the day before the FBI tactical team moved in.

“When she told me the dates, I was like, ‘Oh my God,’” said Spanswick, who was authorized to speak on behalf of the family.  

He called the FBI immediately to tell them he thought DiMaggio “was on the clock” and was about to do something drastic to coincide with the anniversary of his father's suicide.

As it turned out, DiMaggio had also brought his gray cat, Precious. That, said Spanswick, chief executive of a drug and alcohol treatment facility in West Hollywood, made sense for someone plotting his own violent end.

“They’ll kill all the objects around them that they really care about,” he said. “There’s a clear pattern there of him repeating what his father had done.”

If that was DiMaggio’s plan, he was prevented from carrying it out Saturday when FBI agents shot him dead at his remote campsite near Morehead Lake, about 75 miles north of Boise. According to an Idaho coroner, DiMaggio was shot “at least” five times and died at the scene.

Hannah and the cat were recovered safely from the scene, ending a tense, multistate manhunt that began Aug. 4 when firefighters found the bodies of Hannah's mother and younger brother at DiMaggio's burning home, east of San Diego.

Hannah didn’t learn about her mother and brother until she was briefed by authorities after the rescue, San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore said.

According to search warrants released Wednesday, Christina Anderson, 44, and son Ethan, 8, were “tortured and killed” before the blaze, although authorities did not disclose details.

The family dog was found shot to death under a sleeping bag.

Hannah was then taken from cheerleading practice, prompting missing-child Amber Alert text messages to the public in several Western states.

Spanswick said he and DiMaggio’s family were at a loss for what could have triggered the six-day ordeal. But he hypothesized that a maturing Hannah – whom DiMaggio had known since birth – could have pushed him into a deep depression that led to a mental “collapse.”

“I think Jim took Hannah’s teen separation, which is healthy, a lot more personally,” he said.

At a news conference Monday, Sheriff Gore said authorities may never know what motivated DiMaggio, saying that “clearly he had severe mental problems.”

"Frequently when these terrible acts occur, these horrible crimes, with the subject dead, you just can’t come up with a motive," Gore said. "Everybody wants a rational explanation for an irrational act, but you just can’t find one.”

Spanswick, though, said the ordeal may have also been rooted in the trauma associated with a troubled past riddled with violence and abandonment.

DiMaggio’s father was a meth addict who served prison time for assault before abandoning his son and daughter and, eventually, committing suicide, Spanswick said.

According to court records and media accounts at the time, James Everet DiMaggio served prison time for beating two fellow drug users in a motel room in 1989. And when he was spurned by the 16-year-old object of his affection, he tied up her boyfriend and threatened to kill them both with a sawed-off shotgun.

The mother of the younger DiMaggio, Spanswick said, died of cancer in 1995, three years before his father went off the grid and was later found dead in the desert.

The death certificate listed dehydration as the cause of death, but Spanswick said it was clearly “a suicidal act.”

“He took a large dose of meth, placed the hypodermic needle in his sock and just started walking into the desert,” Spanswick said.

But in the seven years Spanswick knew the younger DiMaggio, he said his troubled past hardly came up.

“He had told me he had a very troubling past, but he never really went into it,” Spanswick said. “They hide it and they isolate it.”

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jason.wells@latimes.com

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