The remains of James DiMaggio's house in San Diego, California. DiMaggio burned his house down in an effort to kidnap Hannah Anderson, killing her mother and brother. (Source: Reuters)
News has quickly been unravelling regarding the search for a missing San Diego teen and her kidnapper, due to more widespread use of California's Amber Alert system. Police were able to find the car of kidnapper James DiMaggio in a secluded area of the River of No Return Wilderness in central Idaho based on a tip. While the license plates were removed, the blue Nissan Versa that belonged to DiMaggio was identified by a vehicle registration number. Following this, reports came in that two horseback-riding hikers spotted a pair of people believed to be DiMaggio and his victim, 16-year-old Hannah Anderson, on the trails in Idaho. Police have now moved inward to the Idaho wilderness to hunt down DiMaggio and rescue Anderson.
The kidnapping of Hannah Anderson gained national attention, but not initially due to the circumstances of the kidnapping, themselves rather unsavory. The kidnapping was the first use of the full-scale deployment of the Amber Alert system on mobile phones, now a standard feature on all new smartphones shipped in the United States. The feature, which is turned on by default and requires opting out, sends a distinct text message to the phone whenever an Amber Alert is activated in the state the phone is located.
This Amber Alert text comes with a unique ringtone for those who have their phones not on silent or vibrate, akin to a siren. Many Californians were abruptly and annoyingly introduced to this feature on Tuesday, when the Amber Alert went into effect for Anderson's kidnapping. Let it be known that this writer will opt out when he gets a smartphone eventually.
Still, the circumstances of Hannah Anderson's kidnapping are noteworthy, if only because they seem to take a page or two from the late 90's film American Beauty: DiMaggio, a long time friend to the Anderson family, had apparently been deeply infatuated with the teenager for some time. The infatuation was seen as needlessly creepy, according to some sources. The current conventional wisdom states that, in order to have Hannah, DiMaggio orchestrated the kidnapping by setting his own house on fire, killing not only her mother Christina, but also her brother Ethan, who was initially believed to have been kidnapped as well in the initial Amber Alert. That DiMaggio took care to escape, heading east to Idaho instead of a straight line to British Columbia as investigators were told, means there has been some form of planning on the kidnapper's part.