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Amber Alert teen Hannah Anderson reveals details in first TV interview

August 22, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
Kidnapped teenager Hannah Anderson gave a televised interview Thursday morning, her first news interview since her rescue.

In the interview, Anderson talked about communicating with suspect James DiMaggio before she was taken on August 3. She did not go into detail about her abduction experience.

She said she had written letters a year ago to DiMaggio, a family friend known as "Uncle Jim" to her and her brother, during a difficult relationship period with her mother.

"Me and him would talk about how to deal with it, and I'd tell him how I felt about it, and he'd help me through it. They weren't anything bad. They were just to help me through tough times," she said.

In Thursday morning's "Today" show interview, he also corrected earlier reports that she had exchanged 13 phone calls with DiMaggio on the day she was abducted. She said she exchanged texts with him because he didn't know where to pick her up after cheerleading practice after school.

"The phone calls weren't phone calls," she said. "They were texts because he was picking me up from cheer camp and he didn't know the address or what, like, where I was, so I had to tell him."

Hannah's mother, Christina Anderson, and Hannah's 8-year-old brother, Ethan Anderson, were found dead in DiMaggio's burned home in Boulevard, about 65 miles east of San Diego, in July.

Hannah was allegedly abducted, prompting a multi-state search. DiMaggio was fatally shot after authorities found the two in a remote area of Idaho wilderness. Hannah was rescued unharmed.

Hannah went online and answered questions on social media two days after she was rescued. She had a straightforward answer for why she talked online: "It just helps me grieve ... I'm going to go on it. I'm a teenager."

She was at turns defiant and shaken in the NBC interview, declaring that she's a survivor and plans to try to out for varsity gymnastics this year but breaking down when asked to describe her younger brother.

"In the beginning, I was a victim," she said, "but now knowing everyone out there was helping I consider myself a survivor instead."

Hannah said the ordeal drew her closer to her father, who flew to San Diego from his Tennessee home after the search was launched. During the interview, she showed off newly painted nails, pink in honor of her mother and blue for her brother with their names on her toes.

Of her brother, she said, "He had a really big heart," before she choked up and wiped away tears. Her mother was "strong-hearted and very tough."

"She knew how to handle things," Hannah said.

San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore has called Hannah "a victim in every sense of the word." He has declined to discuss a possible motive and investigators haven't publicly addressed other aspects of the case, including why the family went to DiMaggio's home, the nature of letters from Hannah that were discovered in DiMaggio's home and how Hannah was treated in captivity.

DiMaggio set fire to his home using a timer, giving him a 20-hour jump on authorities, authorities say.

Horseback riders who spotted the pair in the Idaho wilderness alerted authorities, providing the key break to her rescue. Hannah told NBC that she probably wouldn't be home if it weren't for them and also thanked investigators and members of the public who assisted in the search for her.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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