Witnesses talk about encounter with suspected kidnapper and missing teen

Credit: Ryan Hilliard / KTVB

Witnesses talk about encounter with suspected kidnapper and missing teen


by Justin Corr

Bio | Email | Follow: @JCorrKTVB


Posted on August 11, 2013 at 8:08 PM

Updated Monday, Aug 12 at 11:40 AM

CASCADE, Idaho -- More details are emerging about just how FBI agents and local authorities rescued a California teen from the rugged Idaho backcountry, after a week-long manhunt led them to Cascade, Idaho.

The topography is so steep in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness Area, that helicopters had to drop off two Hostage Rescue teams far from Morehead Lake, where 16-year-old Hannah Anderson and her suspected captor, James DiMaggio, were spotted.

It took those teams more than two hours to hike through the steep terrain to get to the lake and surround the campsite. They didn't want to alert DiMaggio that they were coming, so once teams were set up, they waited for James and Hannah to separate before moving in. They removed her by helicopter.

But none of that could've happened without the help of four Idahoans. Mike and Mary Young, and Mark and Christa John were riding horses on a trail near Morehead Lake on Wednesday morning, when they spotted two hikers, who they later learned were suspected kidnapper James DiMaggio and missing teen Hannah Anderson.

They told their story to a throng of reporters on Sunday, and said the meeting was a one in a trillion chance.

Mark is a retired Gem County Sheriff. He says their interactions with the pair were brief, but strange. "They were just like a square peg going into a round hole. They didn't fit."

Mary talked about how Hannah looked when they spotted them on the trail. "She did appear frightened, but I thought it was a fear of the horses."

DiMaggio claimed they were headed to the Salmon River, but they were going in the wrong direction. Also, Mike said most people they meet on the trail are friendly, but these two clearly didn't want to talk. "She was trying to turn her face away... Then, when we went up the trail a little ways, I turned around and told these guys that there was something wrong there. It just wasn't right."

When the riders came back down the trail later, passing DiMaggio and Anderson's campsite, they tried to joke with Hannah about dipping her feet in the water, and that's when Hannah uttered a cryptic message. According to Mark, "She said, 'Looks like we're all in trouble now.' Or, 'We're in real trouble now.' And then, we rode on out."

When Mark was watching the news Thursday night, and saw a report on the Amber Alert, he put the pieces together. "When I saw that picture on the screen, I told my wife, 'That is the girl that was up on that mountain.'"

Mark contacted a former deputy of his who now works with Idaho State Police, who got the process moving. The FBI talked to the witnesses, got that vital information, and less than two days later, the news broke that Hannah was back in safe hands.

Christa talked about the moment she told Mark. "I was watching the news, and he was coming up on the four-wheeler, and I was just jumping up and going like this (showing two thumbs up). And he was looking at me. Ya know, we were relieved that she was OK."

Mark says he would like to meet Hannah's father to express his condolences for Hannah's mother and brother, who investigators believe were killed by DiMaggio in California.