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Search extends into Mexico for man suspected of killing woman, taking kids

SAN DIEGO — The husband of a woman whose body was found in a burned house near the U.S.-Mexico border said Tuesday that he knew the man suspected of killing his wife and abducting one or both of their children.

The disclosure came as a manhunt for James Lee DiMaggio, 40, expanded. The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department has said DiMaggio and the victim, 44-year-old Christina Anderson, had been in a close, platonic relationship.

Brett Anderson said he knew DiMaggio “very well” but declined to answer further questions as he arrived from out of town to meet with investigators. He did confirm that he had fathered the two missing children – 16-year-old Hannah Anderson and 8-year-old Ethan Anderson.

Brett Anderson said the couple was married but declined to elaborate further on their relationship.

Christina Anderson’s father, Christopher Saincome, said he had seen the suspect two or three times through his daughter and described him as a good friend of his son-in-law.

Authorities found Christina Anderson’s body on Sunday night in the rural home of DiMaggio in Boulevard, a remote hamlet 65 miles east of San Diego. They also found the remains of a child whose identity and cause of death were undetermined.

It will take two or three days for DNA testing to identify the charred body, sheriff’s Lt. Glenn Giannantonio told reporters Tuesday, according to U-T San Diego.

“It is a possibility that the body found in the residence is that of Ethan,” he said.

Giannantonio didn’t respond to a phone message from The Associated Press.

An Amber Alert advised freeway motorists, television viewers and mobile phone subscribers about a blue Nissan Versa with California license plates that DiMaggio was believed to be driving. The California Highway Patrol said the suspect could be headed to Texas or Canada.

The FBI joined the search and the Amber Alert was later extended to Mexico’s Baja California state, which borders Boulevard.

Monday marked the first time that mobile phone users were notified of a statewide Amber Alert in California through their phones, said CHP spokeswoman Jamie Coffee. The alert system, which was introduced in December, sends messages automatically, based on the phone’s location, not the phone number.

Authorities found the body of Christina Anderson near a dead dog when they extinguished flames at the home. The child’s body was found later as they sifted through rubble.

Christina Anderson grew up with her mother and stepfather in the east San Diego suburb of Santee, and she aspired to a career in child psychology, said her ex-husband, James Chatfield of La Grande, Ore. The marriage lasted four years, until 1992, and Chatfield said he lost touch.

“She was a high school sweetheart,” he said. “It was a marriage of convenience that just didn’t work out.”

Chatfield said he helped Anderson’s current husband move to The Dalles, Ore., in the early 1990s but they lost contact.

Associated Press news researcher Rhonda Shafner contributed to this report.

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