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Idaho Horseback Riders Surprise Rescued California Teen On NBC's Today Show

DiMaggio, Horseback Riders
Sadie Babits
Boise State Public Radio

The four horseback riders who encountered 16-year-old Hannah Anderson and her abductor, James Lee DiMaggio in Idaho’s wilderness in August made a surprise appearance onNBC’sToday Show. Anderson, along with her father, was on the show Thursday to share her ordeal with host Savannah Guthrie.

After the more than 20 minute interview, Guthrie asked Anderson if she would like to sometime meet the four riders who aided in her rescue. Anderson said yes and Guthrie revealed that Mary Young, Mike Young, Mark John and Christa John were there in the studio. 

Each rider gave Anderson a hug. Mary Young told Anderson, “I still think you’re one tough lady.” At the end of the surprise meeting, Mark John presented Anderson with a cowboy hat from Idaho.

You can watch the full interview on NBC's Today Show here:

KBSX reported in August that former Idaho county sheriff Mark John had the feeling that something didn't seem right with Anderson and DiMaggio the moment he laid eyes on them.

Initially it was the lack of openness on the trail, a reluctance to engage in the polite exchange of banter or adventures like so many other recreationists John has encountered during his horseback excursions into Idaho's rugged backcountry.

Then John and his partners on horseback puzzled why Anderson and DiMaggio were hiking in the opposite direction of their stated destination, the Salmon River. But more than anything, it was their gear, or lack of it that raised the riders' concerns.

The 40-year-old DiMaggio, described as an avid hiker in his home state of California, was toting only a light pack. It even appeared Anderson was wearing pajama bottoms. "They just didn't fit," said the 71-year-old John, who retired as Gem County sheriff in 1996. "He might have been an outdoorsman in California but he was not an outdoorsman in Idaho...red flags kind of went up." Another red flag was that the pair’s tent was up on an exposed ridge away from water.

Rider Mike Young was the first to encounter DiMaggio. “Usually when you meet in the backcountry you have a pretty good encounter and you talk about where you’ve been and where you’re going, but they didn’t want to talk.”

It wasn't until later when the Johns returned home and saw the girl's photograph on the news that they made a connection. After confirming with the Youngs, Mark John immediately called Idaho State Police, setting off the investigation in Idaho and the eventual rescue of Anderson.

Anderson explained in Thursday’s Today Show interview how her family's friend-turned-captor handcuffed her and made her play a game of Russian roulette on his couch.

The San Diego-area teen says James DiMaggio used zip ties to bind her feet and then told her he was going to take her to Idaho to help him settle there before releasing her. He then drugged her and forced her into his car.

DiMaggio rigged his home to burn. The remains of her mother and brother were found inside later. The 16-year-old says DiMaggio told her throughout the ordeal they were alive. It wasn’t until after her rescue when she was recovering in a hospital that she learned her family members were dead.

FBI agents fatally shot DiMaggio and rescued Anderson in Idaho on Aug. 10 after a week long manhunt.

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