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16-year-old uses Internet to describe captivity

Published August 14, 2013 8:17 pm

Postings • Psychologist says Anderson's choice of social media is another example of how her generation shares deeply personal experiences.
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San Diego • Hannah Anderson says a longtime family friend "tricked" her into visiting his house, tied up her mother and younger brother in his garage and kidnapped her, setting off a massive search that stretched across much of the western U.S.

And when she later learned they were found dead in her captor's burning Southern California house, the 16-year-old said she cried all night.

"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 in a harrowing account on a social media site roughly two days after she was rescued and FBI agents killed James Lee DiMaggio in the Idaho wilderness.

Many of the hundreds of the questions she fielded on the social media site were typical teenage fare, including her favorite musical performers, but she also told of how she was kidnapped, how she survived captivity and how she is coping with the deaths of her mother and brother.

The postings, which began Monday night and stopped Tuesday night, appeared on the ask.fm social-networking site account for "Hannahbanana722" of Lakeside, the San Diego suburb where the teen lived with her mother and brother. The account was disabled Wednesday.

DiMaggio, 40, was shot at least five times in the head and chest, said authorities, who were unable to determine a precise number of gunshot wounds. DiMaggio's body was cremated Tuesday near Los Angeles, said family spokesman Andrew Spanswick.

Police have said little about the investigation. A spokeswoman for the San Diego County Sheriff's Department said authorities were aware of the online comments but could not confirm the account was Hannah's.

Dawn MacNabb, whose son, Alan, is one of Hannah's closest friends, confirmed the postings were by the teen. Alan spoke on the phone with Hannah Tuesday and urged her to delete some of the postings, MacNabb said.

At one point, a questioner asked Hannah to post a photo and she complied with an image showing her with a wide smile.

She declined interview requests from news organizations that posted to her account.

Nora Baladerian, a Los Angeles psychologist who headed trauma teams in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, said Anderson's choice of social media was another example of how her generation turns to the Internet to share deeply personal experiences with strangers.

"I think what's she's doing is connecting, and that's a good thing," Baladerian said.

Anderson was kidnapped Aug. 4 by DiMaggio, her father's best friend who was like an uncle to her and her 8-year-old brother, Ethan. DiMaggio had invited the children and their mother, Christina Anderson, 44, to his house in Boulevard, a rural town 65 miles east of San Diego.

"He 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," Hannah wrote.

Hannah said she "basically" stayed awake for six straight days and repeatedly told her captor she was hungry. She couldn't escape because DiMaggio had a gun and "threatened to kill me and anyone who tried to help."

She said she was too frightened to ask for help when horseback riders encountered the pair in the remote wilderness on Wednesday. The riders didn't report the sightings to police until the next day, after returning home and learning about the search.

"I had to act calm I didn't want them to get hurt. I was scared that he would kill them," she wrote.

The girl said DiMaggio threatened her if she didn't help hide his blue Nissan Versa with tree branches. Authorities discovered the car Friday, leading to her rescue the following day.

Asked if she would have preferred DiMaggio got a lifetime prison sentence instead of being killed, she said, "He deserved what he got."

Hannah said she was uncomfortable around DiMaggio even before the ordeal, saying he once told her that he was drawn to her. "He said it was more like a family crush like he had feelings as in he wanted nothing bad to happen to me," she wrote.

She said she didn't tell her parents because DiMaggio was his father's best friend "and I didn't want to ruin anything between them."

On Monday, Anderson had her nails done, pink for her mother and blue for her brother.

Lawrence Calhoun, a psychology professor at University of North Carolina at Charlotte, said people react to trauma in widely different ways and warned against deeming any response misguided.

Still, the most important messages of support will come from family and friends, he said. One potential pitfall of turning to the Internet is that strangers may post unhelpful, even harmful, remarks.

"As a parent, I would want her to be more careful," Calhoun said.

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Associated Press writer Rebecca Boone in Boise, Idaho, contributed to this report.