(CNN) — In her first television interview since she was freed following an alleged kidnapping this month, Hannah Anderson described herself as a survivor, and thanked those who have supported her.
“In the beginning I was a victim, but now knowing everyone out there is helping me, I consider myself a survivor instead,” she told NBC News. “My mom raised me to be strong.”
James DiMaggio allegedly kidnapped Hannah on August 4. Police later found the bodies of her mother and brother at DiMaggio’s burned home, about an hour east of San Diego.
After evading authorities for a week, DiMaggio was spotted in the Idaho wilderness on August 10, nearly 1,000 miles from where the alleged kidnapping occurred.
An FBI agent shot him dead and Hannah, 16, was returned to her family in Southern California.
In the interview, portions of which NBC aired Thursday morning, Hannah addressed rampant speculation online about text messages and letters she exchanged with DiMaggio.
The two texted the day she was abducted because he was supposed to pick her up from cheerleading camp and he needed directions, she said. Earlier letters involved advice about her relationship with her mother, the teen told NBC.
“They weren’t anything bad, they were just to help me through tough times,” she told “Today.”
She also thanked law enforcement officials and others involved in her rescue. She singled out the horseback riders who first spotted her in the Idaho wilderness.
“I’d like to say thank you, because without them I probably wouldn’t be here right now,” she said.
‘Rumors that Jim might be the father’
Since her return, a series of twists have emerged, including a request by DiMaggio’s family that DNA testing be conducted on Hannah and her 8-year-old brother, whose body was found in the alleged kidnapper’s torched home.
“We are going to be requesting from the Anderson family that we try to get DNA samples from Hannah. And if they have anything left from Ethan, that we get a DNA sample,” DiMaggio’s family spokesman, Andrew Spanswick, told CNN affiliate KGTV. “There has been a lot of rumors that Jim might be the father of either or both children.”
A representative for the Anderson family shot down the theory.
“Brett and Tina Anderson did not meet Mr. DiMaggio until the sixth month of Tina’s pregnancy with Hannah. Brett Anderson’s DNA was used to identify the body of his dead son Ethan Anderson,” the family statement said.
And David Braun, Tina Anderson’s uncle, reacted angrily to the idea.
“I would tell them to shut up with their accusations and their implications up until after the funeral, until after my precious Tina and precious Ethan are buried — the family members that your family murdered,” Braun said. “That’s what I would tell them.”
A complex case
With each passing day, the case has taken on added complexity.
DiMaggio, 40, left a life insurance policy that named Hannah and Ethan’s grandmother, Bernice Anderson, as the beneficiary.
Stacy Hess, the Anderson family spokeswoman, did not know the dollar amount, but other media outlets put it at around $110,000.
The insurance policy was one of the reasons DiMaggio’s family sought a DNA test.
“We find it very strange that he has left all this money without any explanation. It states specifically that he didn’t want to give it to either parent cause he didn’t trust them,” spokesman Spanswick said, referring to Hannah’s parents.
The Anderson children called DiMaggio “Uncle Jim.”
One search warrant referred to Hannah’s mother as the wife of DiMaggio’s best friend.
Hannah spotted with captor
Hannah was seen with DiMaggio in his car about 20 hours before he allegedly set fire to his house, police said.
The two were in his blue Nissan Versa just after midnight August 4, the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department said. They were spotted at a U.S. Border Patrol checkpoint, according to Jan Caldwell, a spokeswoman for the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department.
Caldwell did not say what the two were doing together or whether Hannah was with DiMaggio voluntarily.
CNN was unable to get an Anderson family response to this revelation.
Search warrant raises eyebrows
Phone records indicate the two “called each other approximately 13 times” shortly before both their phones were turned off on August 4, a search warrant revealed.
The same document says that a fire was reported later that night at DiMaggio’s two-story log cabin and a detached garage in Boulevard, California.
After battling the fire, authorities found the bodies of Hannah’s mother and brother.
An affidavit claimed that both had been “tortured and killed” by DiMaggio, who then set his home and garage ablaze.
San Diego County deputies searching DiMaggio’s charred home also found a handwritten note, handcuff box, camping equipment, a DNA swab kit, two used condoms and letters from Hannah, according to an affidavit.
Contents of the letters and the handwritten note were not revealed.
By Faith Karimi, CNN
CNN’s Amanda Watts, Dave Alsup and Greg Botelho contributed to this report
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