By Doug Stanglin, USA TODAY
The California teenager who was abducted by a family friend suspected of killing her mother and brother tried to explain on Thursday why she had once exchanged letters with him and even sent text messages just before she was kidnapped.
A tearful Hannah Anderson, 16, discussed her relationship with 40-year-old James DiMaggio in an exclusive interview on NBC's "Today."
DiMaggio was killed by FBI agents Aug. 10 at a remote wilderness campsite in Idaho where he had taken the 16-year-old Hannah during a six-day, multi-state ordeal.
Investigators say DiMaggio, known by the family as "Uncle Jim," killed 44-year-old Christina Anderson and her son, Ethan, whose bodies were discovered after DiMaggio set fire to his home in Boulevard, a tiny town 65 miles east of San Diego.
Hannah, whose only public comments on the kidnapping until now came in a series of online postings, told "Today" that she had exchanged text messages with DiMaggio prior to her abduction to arrange for him to pick her up at cheerleading camp.
"And he didn't know the address or what - like, 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."
Although she says the exchanges were text messages, according to search warrants, Anderson had exchanged about 13 phone calls with him. The San Diego County Sheriff's said it could not immediately explain the discrepancy, the Associated Press reported.
Hannah also said that she had exchanged letters a year ago with DiMaggio because she and her mother weren't getting along and DiMaggio helped her work through the difficulties.
"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."
Hannah did not go into much detail in the interview about the abduction itself, which ended after four campers on horseback spotted the pair in the Idaho back country and alerted police.
She said she was not aware there was a nationwide search for her, nor had she even heard of an AMBER alert, which had been issued in at least five states.
"I know it helped people find me," she said. "And it made them, like, realize that it's hard to find people out there. But with everyone's support, it can help a lot.
Authorities have said that Hannah also was not aware that her mother and brother were dead. In her emotional interview with "Today," Hannah recalled that Ethan "had a really big heart" and said her mother had instilled a strong spirit in her that is helping her cope.
In a bizarre twist to the story, DiMaggio had switched the beneficiary of his $112,000 life insurance in 2011 from his sister to Hannah's grandmother, Bernice Anderson, in order to provide for Hannah and Ethan.
A spokesman for the DiMaggio family said this week that the family wanted DNA tests conducted to find out if DiMaggio was the biological father of Hannah and Ethan.
A spokesman for Hannah's father, Brett Anderson, who lives in Tennessee, issued a statement on Wednesday denying suggestions that DiMaggio could have been the children's father, noting that Brett Anderson provided DNA that helped identify Ethan's body in the burned out home.
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, how Christina and Ethan Anderson died, the nature of letters from Hannah that were discovered in DiMaggio's home and how Hannah was treated in captivity.
Contributing: Associated Press