It was a few days ago when the San Francisco Police found missing 12-year-old Brittany Smith and her abductor Jeffrey Scott Easley outside of the Safeway. They were found "panhandling" and camping with the homeless across the street from the store.
The police had confirmed that Brittany was aware of her mother's death already, but did not say how she knew. They have also talked to the pre-teen as well as Easley and are now focusing on the murder of Tina Smith, Brittany's mother.
Brittany Mae Smith was reported missing when her mother, Tina Dyer Smith, was found dead in their home and there was no sign of the girl. Tina did not show up for work and co-workers could not get contact, so they called police. The investigation into the home and a call to Brittany's school let them know that she had been absent for several days. Once they found out about Easley and he could not be located, they suspected the abduction.
The Amber Alert hit America fast and hard. Then a break came in the case when security camera's in the Salem, VA Wal-mart spotted Jeff Easley and Brittany shopping. They were led to this search when Easley used Tina's credit card to make the purchases of the camping gear at the store on Dec. 3.
That was the last trace of them for more than a week. The search spread to Alabama, Florida and North Carolina with no leads as to where Easley had taken her. The car belonging to Easley was found early on in the investigation, but Tina's car was what everyone was looking for. Her 2005 Dodge Neon had disappeared, along with her daughter.
Then out of nowhere news came from across the country. The possible sighting of Brittany and capture of Easley in California. This comes just 5 hours after a heartfelt plea of help and tips from the local police. They wanted Brittany's friends to speak up, they had to know something.
Press conferences have confirmed that investigators from Virginia are on their way to California to bring Brittany home and to attend the hearing on Monday or Tuesday for Easley. Brittany, who has been in contact with her family, will be returned to them ASAP. Reports indicated that the conversation with her father included him being sure it was her. He asked questions such as the name of her dog, his dog and other personal things only she would have the answer to. He is a police officer as well, he needed that reassurance.
32-year-old Easley is being held without bond on kidnapping, credit card fraud and more charges are pending, including possible murder charges in the Tina Smith case. The Virginia officers hope to extraditeEasley after his hearing, if he waives the right. In the case that he decides to fight extradition, it could be over a month before he gets back to Virginia.
Smith's reunion with her family will be covered by the local news channels. There prayers have been answered and Brittany will be home for the holidays, but there is still much pain ahead. The burial of Tina, the trials ahead, and the counseling that the child will need. It is very hard to tell how much Easley has messed with her head.
This is also salt on wounds that were already beginning. The family did not personally know Easley, but they do know that he and Tina met online over the summer. There relationship grew as he moved in with the two in September. Tina, however, working as a nurse, was also active in making awareness of a trend that was killing teens.
It was just a few years ago that Tina lost her son to a "high" caused by asphyxiation. This is a deadly and more common thing with teens than many people are aware of, and that was Tina's plan. She worked very hard to help others who have had that same loss and to help others become aware of the problem and what to look for.
Unfortunately, the tragedy that this family has had to endure, the good news is that they did get one member back safe and sound. The best of luck to the family in this time and hope for the maximum sentence for Easley.