Lakeside, Calif. • A man suspected of abducting a 16-year-old girl told her he had a crush on her and would date her if they were the same age, a friend of the girl said Wednesday as police searched for the man who is also wanted in the death of the girl's mother and possibly her 8-year-old brother.
Marissa Chavez, 15, said James Lee DiMaggio explained that he didn't want the girls to think he was weird in an effort to defend himself after noticing they exchanged glances. She said he spoke while driving them home from a high school gymnastics meet a couple months ago.
Hannah Anderson asked Chavez to join her from then on whenever DiMaggio, 40, drove her to meets.
"She was a little creeped out by it. She didn't want to be alone with him," Chavez said.
DiMaggio was like an uncle to Hannah and 8-year-old Ethan. He was very close with their parents for years.
On Sunday night, authorities found the body of 42-year-old Christina Anderson when they extinguished flames at DiMaggio's rural home. A child's body was found as they sifted through rubble in Boulevard, a tiny town 65 miles east of San Diego on the U.S.-Mexico border.
The child's body has not been identified but it may be Ethan, sheriff's Lt. Glenn Giannantonio said late Tuesday.
Christina Anderson's father, Christopher Saincome, said Wednesday that his daughter visited DiMaggio's home last weekend to say goodbye before he moved to Texas. DiMaggio, who works as a telecommunications technician at The Scripps Research Institute in San Diego, was a regular presence at the Anderson family apartment in Lakeside, a suburb of 54,000 people.
Investigators say DiMaggio may be headed to Texas or Canada with one child or both. They had no evidence that the relationship between DiMaggio and the missing girl was more than friendly.
"We're not looking into that directly at this point," Giannantonio said.
DiMaggio is wanted on suspicion of murder and arson in a search that began in Southern California and spread to Mexico and neighboring states.