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Man suspected of killing mother, kidnapping kids had crush on her daughter, friend says

As the manhunt for a California man who allegedly kidnapped a 16-year-old girl after killing her mother -- and possibly her younger brother -- was expanded Thursday as far north as Washington state, a friend of the teen claimed the girl was "creeped out" by a crush the suspect had on her.

The friend of Hannah Anderson, the missing teen, said James Lee DiMaggio explained that he didn't want the girls to think he was weird in an effort to defend himself after noticing he and the teen exchanged glances. She said he spoke while driving them home from a high school gymnastics meet a couple months ago.

'She didn't want to be alone with him'

- Hannah Anderson's friend said

Hannah asked the girl to join her from then on whenever DiMaggio, 40, drove her to meets.

"She was a little creeped out by it. She didn't want to be alone with him," the friend said.

A neighbor also told Fox5SanDiego.com that Hannah was afraid of DiMaggio and did not want to be around him anymore, but 'she didn't know how to tell anyone.'

"She's strong, she will make it through this," the neighbor said. "She’s smart and I pray to God, she’s just playing into whatever he's doing," she said. “I know she’ll get away. I can feel it – she will come home."

Amber Alerts for Hannah and her 8-year-old brother Ethan Anderson were issued in Oregon and Washington state Wednesday after reports of DiMaggio's car spotted in some areas.

DiMaggio is suspected of murdering the children's mother, Christina Anderson, whose body was found Sunday night in his  fire-damaged home in Boulevard, Calif., a remote hamlet 65 miles east of San Diego. The body of a child was found near Christina Anderson's remains, and DNA tests will be performed to determine if the body is Ethan's.

"It is a possibility that it's Ethan," said San Diego County Sheriff's Department Lt. Glenn Giannantonio. "Right now we just don't know. And we're praying that it isn't Ethan."

Giannantonio said he believes Hannah is in ‘grave danger.’

A blue 2013 Nissan Versa allegedly being driven by DiMaggio, 40, was reportedly seen heading northbound from Alturas, Calif., near the Oregon border. The car also was possibly spotted in southern Oregon Wednesday afternoon, near the town of Lakeview, police said.

Shortly after Oregon put out the alert, the Washington State Patrol followed suit. Authorities believe that DiMaggio might be heading toward Texas or Canada with the two.

The children's father pleaded with DiMaggio Thursday on 'Fox and Friends' to release his daughter and turn himself in. He told his daughter to run if she has the chance.

The San Diego County Sheriff's Department has said DiMaggio and Christina Anderson had been in a close, platonic relationship.

Christina Anderson's father, Christopher Saincome, said Wednesday that his daughter visited DiMaggio's home last weekend to say goodbye before he moved to Texas. DiMaggio, who works as a telecommunications technician at The Scripps Research Institute in San Diego, was a regular presence at the Anderson family apartment in Lakeside, a suburb of 54,000 people.

"He must have had this planned," Saincome said.

Saincome said nothing seemed amiss when he called his daughter at work Friday to let her know she didn't call on his birthday. Anderson, a medical assistant, said she would call back that night but never did.

Investigators had no evidence that the relationship between DiMaggio and the missing girl was more than friendly.

"We're not looking into that directly at this point," Giannantonio said.

DiMaggio's sister, Lora Robinson, told U-T San Diego that the allegations against her brother were "completely out of character." She said he spent four years in the Navy, left the service to care for her after their mother died of cancer, and volunteered rescuing animals.

"He is the kindest person in the world," Robinson said.

Click here for more from Fox5SanDiego.com.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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