A twisted crush led James DiMaggio to take two innocent lives…but did his father’s violent past play a part?
On Sunday 3 August 2013, the home of James DiMaggio, 40, in Boulevard, California, was swept by fire.
Inside, police found two bodies, burnt beyond recognition – later identified as Christina Anderson, 44, and her son Ethan, 8. Her husband, Brett, then 46, was away working in Tennessee.
Their daughter Hannah, 16, and family friend DiMaggio – known to the kids as Uncle Jim – were missing.
Hannah hadn’t been seen since cheerleading practice a day earlier, when Jim had collected her.
Investigators believed Christina and Ethan had been tortured, and Christina bound, gagged and beaten to death. Ethan’s bone analysis suggested he’d been locked in the house to die in the fire.
It was suspected DiMaggio had attacked mother and son, then attempted to cover up the crime with the blaze.
‘Handcuff boxes and restraints found at the residence were indications that Hannah had been taken against her will,’ FBI Deputy Director Britt Johnson said.
An Amber Alert – a child abduction emergency – was issued across five states.
On DiMaggio’s computer, e-mails to Hannah indicated he feared she was growing apart from her ‘Uncle Jim’.
Now, a friend of Hannah’s revealed Hannah confided she felt ‘creeped out’ around him.
He’d recently told Hannah, ‘If I was your age, I’d date you.’
Was Jim’s heinous act fuelled by a twisted crush?
What’s more, could it be a sickening case of history repeating itself…
Jim was born James Lee DiMaggio on 17 January 1973, in Germany, where his father, James Sr served in the Army.
Jim was raised in Texas and California, had a sister. His mum died during his early years.
But his father had a criminal past, with actions frighteningly similar to those of his son.
In 1988, DiMaggio Sr was infatuated with an ex-partner’s teenage daughter – he’d looked after his ex’s two children, including the 16-year-old girl, and took them on road trips.
He’d reportedly told the girl he was ‘in love’ with her.
Now an adult and maintaining her anonymity, the woman spoke out to express her deep concern as Hannah’s abduction unfolded.
DiMaggio Sr had told her he wanted to take her away to a better life. When she refused, he’d burst into her home in El Cajon, California, wearing a ski mask and armed with a sawn-off shotgun and handcuffs.
DiMaggio Sr had held the teenage girl and her boyfriend at gunpoint.
‘I asked him not to kill us and he said, “Don’t worry, you won’t feel a thing,”’ the woman said.
The terrified girl asked to use the bathroom and escaped, the elder DiMaggio fled.
He was later arrested.
The woman also claimed she was a classmate of DiMaggio Jr, then a 16-year-old boy she knew as Jimmy.
He delivered a message from his father one day at school.
‘I was walking to my locker, and Jimmy said, “My dad is out, and he said to let you know he’ll be waiting for you after school,’’’ the woman revealed.
Terrified, she’d quit school that day, changed her name, and later became a nurse.
DiMaggio Sr’s violent past also included beating two acquaintances with a baseball bat at a motel.
DiMaggio Sr’s life culminated in a ‘drug-induced suicide’ a week after he went missing on 3 August 1995…
It’s unclear how hard the loss hit Jim, then 18, but it was thought he and his sister had moved on from the tragedy.
As an adult, Jim DiMaggio spent four years with the Navy before becoming a telecommunications technician in San Diego, California.
He later met and befriended Brett Anderson, whose wife Christina was six months pregnant with their first child – Hannah – at the time.
Chillingly, on the 18th anniversary of his own father’s disappearance – 3 August 2013 – James DiMaggio had invited Christina, Hannah and Ethan to stay over at his house.
He’d falsely told them he was saying goodbye because he was planning to move to Texas.
Then, during the night, he’d launched his vile attack.
He’d bludgeoned Christina to death and shot dead the family dog. Then he’d set the house on fire, killing a trapped Ethan. And abducted Hannah.
On 8 August 2013, the FBI closed in on the pair when horseback riders in the ‘River of No Return’ in Idaho’s wilderness reported seeing a man and a blonde teenage girl who didn’t seem to ‘fit’ the area.
A helicopter search was launched and 150 FBI agents converged at the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness.
Two days later, at about 5.15pm, the pair were spotted at a rough campsite in the woods. About 1,000 miles away from the charred remains of DiMaggio’s home in Boulevard, California.
After a tense stand-off, where James DiMaggio fired at officers, they shot back.
Struck five times in the head, arms and upper torso, DiMaggio was killed.
Hannah Anderson was successfully rescued, physically unharmed. She was devastated to learn DiMaggio had murdered her mother and brother.
Speaking afterwards, Hannah described her six-day ordeal, revealing DiMaggio had a gun and ‘threatened to kill me and anyone who tried to help’.
As fate would have it, James Lee DiMaggio was shot dead 18 years to the day after his father’s suicide.
A friend of DiMaggio’s expressed a fear he’d been trying to die ‘under similar circumstances’ to his father.
Another theory is that DiMaggio had a misguided notion that, once Hannah was alone with him, she’d fall in love with him.
Whatever his deluded reasoning, it’s to be hoped history will never again produce a father and son like the DiMaggios.