LAKESIDE — The children treated him like an uncle. He was close friends with their parents.
James Lee DiMaggio is now a suspect in the death of Christina Anderson, the abduction of her 16-year-old daughter and the possible death or abduction of her 8-year old son.
Anderson's body was found in DiMaggio's burning home east of San Diego, near the dead body of a child who may be Ethan Anderson.
Brett Anderson, who flew from Tennessee to San Diego on Tuesday, pleaded with DiMaggio, 40, to release his daughter, Hannah, saying, "You've taken everything else."
"Jim, I can't fathom what you were thinking. The damage is done," he said outside San Diego County Sheriff's Department headquarters after being interviewed by investigators.
DiMaggio was wanted on suspicion of murder and arson in a search that began in Southern California and spread to Mexico and neighboring states. Authorities said he may be headed to Texas or Canada.
"Hannah, we all love you very much. If you have a chance, you take it. You run. You'll be found," Brett Anderson said, declining to take questions after reading a short statement.
On Sunday night, authorities found the body of Christina Anderson, 42, near a dead dog when they extinguished flames at DiMaggio's rural home. The child's body was found later as they sifted through rubble in Boulevard, a remote hamlet 65 miles east of San Diego on the U.S.-Mexico border.
An autopsy on the child was performed Tuesday but no positive identification was made, said sheriff's Lt. Glenn Giannantonio.
"It is a possibility that it's Ethan," he said. "Right now we just don't know. And we're praying that it isn't Ethan."
Sheriff's investigators said Christina Anderson was close platonic friends with DiMaggio. The suspect was very close with Brett Anderson and like an uncle to his two children, Giannantonio said.
Christina Anderson's father, Christopher Saincome, said he had seen DiMaggio two or three times and described him as a good friend of his son-in-law.