Kidnap victim Hannah Anderson, 16, is speaking out for the first time about family friend-turned-captor James DiMaggio, explaining why she was exchanging texts and letters with the 40-year-old.
In an exclusive sit down with the “Today” show, Hannah said that DiMaggio was making arrangements to pick her up from cheerleading camp the day of the kidnapping. She claims that what authorities thought were 13 phone calls that day were actually text messages.
“And he didn’t know the address or… where I was. So I had to tell him the address and tell him that I was gonna be in the gym and not in front of the school,” she said. “Just so he knew where to come get me.”
Addressing letters from her to “Uncle Jim” that were uncovered in his burned out home, she explained, that the exchange happened a year ago when Hannah was fighting with mom Christina.
“Me and him would talk about how to deal with it,” she said. “And I’d tell him how I felt about it. And he helped me through it. They weren’t anything bad. They’re just to help me through tough times.”
DiMaggio allegedly killed Hannah’s mother and brother Ethan, 8, before abducting her from cheerleading camp. Afterward, he led police on a multi-state manhunt that ended in the Idaho wilderness. He died in a shootout with police.
Breaking down in tears, the high school student told “Today” that Ethan had a “big heart.” She then regained her composure and added that her mom raised her to be strong.
Hannah said social media is helping her through the pain by putting her in touch with her many supporters. "I connect to them through Facebook and Instagram -- it just helps me grieve, like, post pictures and to show how I'm feeling. And I'm a teenager. I'm gonna go on it."
She added, “In the beginning, I was a victim. But now knowing everyone out there’s helping me, I consider myself a survivor instead.”
In a strange twist, DiMaggio's family is asking for a DNA test to find out if he might be Hannah and Ethan's father, after they discovered the beneficiary on his $112,000 life insurance policy had been changed to Hannah's grandmother.
Hannah's father, Brett Anderson, essentially denied the theory when he released a statement to USA Today explaining that his own DNA was used to identify Ethan's body.