Created: Sat, 10 Aug 2013 07:12:00 PST
Updated: Sat, 10 Aug 2013 01:12:20 PST
SAN DIEGO (CNS) - The search for a man suspected of abducting a 16-year-old girl after killing her mother and 8-year-old brother east of San Diego was focused Saturday on an Idaho wilderness area where the suspect's car was found and witnesses reported seeing the man and girl backpacking.
Authorities said a child's remains found in suspect James Lee DiMaggio's fire-gutted Boulevard home were identified Friday night by the San Diego County Sheriff's Department Crime Laboratory as those of 8-year-old Ethan Anderson.
The identity was ascertained through analysis of DNA extracted through bone marrow, according to Jan Caldwell, the San Diego County Sheriff's Department's public affairs director.
The boy's remains and the body of his 44-year-old mother, Christina Anderson, were found Sunday night in the embers of DiMaggio's Ross Avenue house off Old Highway 80.
DiMaggio is suspected of abducting 16-year-old Hannah Anderson after killing the boy and his mother, authorities said.
A car owned by DiMaggio was found abandoned in a remote Idaho nature preserve Friday morning, two days after horseback riders there spotted a man matching his description in the company of a girl resembling the teen he allegedly abducted, San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore said.
The discovery of DiMaggio's blue 2013 Nissan Versa sedan in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness Area came on the sixth day of an urgent multi-state search for the 40-year-old suspect.
On Friday evening, family and friends of the victims gathered for a candlelight vigil at a Lakeside park near where the Andersons lived.
Four horseback riders who may have contacted and chatted with DiMaggio and the missing teen in the Idaho back country did not immediately realize who the pair might be, Gore told reporters during a Friday-morning briefing.
It did not appear to the group that the girl had been harmed or was being held against her will, he said.
"From the account we received, they both appeared to be in good health," Gore said.
The quartet of riders had a brief conversation with the man and girl, who were near a tent and wearing backpacks, Gore said.
He declined to disclose what they talked about.
"They did seem to think the two of them were out of place in that area, with the light camping equipment they had," Gore said. "It is very...rugged terrain."
That evening, it occurred to the witnesses that they might have made an important sighting.
"They came back late Wednesday night, and upon seeing some news of...Hannah and DiMaggio, contacted local law enforcement, and [that] led to a subsequent search for that vehicle in the area," Gore said.
DiMaggio's sedan was found just off a road about 8 a.m., covered in brush and missing its license plates.
Authorities were able to identify it as the suspect's car by its vehicle identification number, the sheriff said.
Local, state and federal officers then began descending on the huge wilderness area near Cascade, Idaho, to search it by ground and air, according to Gore.
A bomb squad was dispatched to look into the possibility that the suspect's car was booby-trapped.
Law enforcement officials consider DiMaggio highly dangerous and likely armed, potentially with explosives or incendiary devices.
Authorities have declined to reveal why investigators believe he might have bomb-making capability and intentions.
About 150 investigators and search-and-rescue experts were combing the rugged wilderness area near Cascade for the suspect and apparent kidnapping victim.
Gore described the latest developments in the case as positive.
"I'm very confident -- and I think we should all be optimistic -- that [Hannah] appeared to be in...good health and was alive on Wednesday," Gore said. "And we hope that...law enforcement will find them in the mountains there, and return them safely."
The reasons for DiMaggio's alleged spree of homicide and abduction remained a mystery, sheriff's Capt. Duncan Fraser told reporters during the news conference outside sheriff's headquarters in Kearny Mesa.
"We don't know what the motive is, at this point," Fraser said.
Authorities believe DiMaggio premeditated his alleged crimes, in part because he bought new camping gear recently, the captain told news crews.
Friends of Hannah's have said the suspect, a longtime family friend who had been close to her and her brother their entire lives, at times seemed infatuated with her.
Officials urged anyone spotting DiMaggio -- who is about 5 feet 9 inches and 150 pounds, with brown hair and brown eyes -- to avoid approaching or contacting him, and to instead contact law enforcement immediately.
Hannah is about 5 feet 7 and 115 pounds, with blond hair, blue eyes, a navel ring, a nose stud and pierced ears.
Anyone with information on the possible whereabouts of the suspect or the missing girl is asked to call the San Diego County Sheriff's Department at (858) 565-5200.