Father of missing children pleads for their release

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(CNN) — The father of two Southern California children who went missing after their mother was killed pleaded Tuesday for the suspected abductor to release his children.

A massive manhunt is under way for James DiMaggio, whom law enforcement authorities describe as a “platonic” friend of the deceased woman, Christina Anderson.

The whereabouts of Anderson’s children, Hannah, 16, and Ethan, 8, are unknown. Investigators believe they may be with DiMaggio, 40, the owner and sole resident of the burned home.

“Jim, I can’t fathom what you were thinking. The damage is done. I’m begging you to let my daughter go. You’ve taken everything else,” Brett Anderson, the children’s father, told reporters.

“Hannah, we all love you very much. If you have a chance, you take it, you run. You’ll be found,” he said.

DiMaggio may have switched vehicles or may have taken public transportation, authorities involved in the search said earlier Tuesday.

“We don’t have any clear direction of where they’re going,” San Diego Sheriff’s Department Lt. Glenn Giannantonio said.

“It would be logical for us to assume that he would head towards Mexico … we’re very close to the border,” Giannantonio added. “He may be trying to throw us off and head the opposite direction and head towards Canada, thinking possibly that the Canadian authorities and the citizens in Canada may not be looking for him like they are here or in Mexico.”

Deputies and fire personnel were called to the scene of a residence and detached garage on fire in the enclave of Boulevard around 8 p.m. Sunday.

While extinguishing the fire, personnel discovered the body of Anderson, 42, of Lakeside, California.

“It has been determined that Ms. Anderson has been murdered,” Giannantonio said.

They also recovered the remains of a child and the body of a dog at the scene. The child has not yet been identified.

“At this point we can just say that there have been a child’s remains found in the rubble. We have not been able to identify the child. At this point, we don’t even know if the child was a male or female,” Giannantonio said. “We’re working on DNA analysis. We’re trying to rush that to get the identification as soon as possible.”

Once California authorities issued the Amber Alert, information was distributed to residents’ cell phones statewide through the Wireless Emergency Alert program, according to the California Highway Patrol.

The wireless program was instituted in December 2012, and this case is the first time is has been used statewide, CHP Public Information Officer Erin Komatsubara told HLN Tuesday.

On HLN’s “Raising America” on Tuesday, the children’s aunt Andrea Saincome said that DiMaggio has known the family for years and that it would not have been unusual for the mother and children to be at his house.

“There was nothing out of the ordinary,” Saincome told HLN’s Christi Paul. “He seemed like a genuinely nice guy. He was close to the kids, and he was friends with my sister and my brother-in-law.”

Police believe the children were last seen with their mother in Boulevard on Saturday. They were reported missing by their grandparents on Sunday. Giannantonio said he did not know what led them to believe their grandchildren were missing.

According to Giannantonio, DiMaggio and Anderson had “a close, platonic relationship” and were not romantically involved.

Giannantonio would not release any details about how Anderson was killed, but he did say that arson investigators believe they know how the fire was started.

Authorities also found burned weapons in the residence, but Giannantonio did not disclose what those weapons were.

The sheriff’s office released several photos of DiMaggio, and Giannantonio said he is believed to be driving a blue, four-door Nissan Versa with California license plate 6WCU986.

The FBI is assisting with the investigation.

“We need the public’s help in locating these people,” Giannantonio said.

He also warned anyone who sees DiMaggio and the children that he may be dangerous and they should not approach him or attempt to detain him. Instead, they are advised to call 911.

A sheriff’s department spokesperson said Tuesday morning that no new information was available on the investigation. The California Highway Patrol Border Division referred questions to the sheriff’s department.

Anyone with information about the case is asked to call the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department Homicide Detail at 858-974-2321 or submit an anonymous tip to Crime Stoppers at 888-580-8477.

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