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Brittany Mae Smith Missing: Her Mother Tina Smith Found Murdered in Virginia Home

By Pete Kotz in homicide, unsolved
Monday, December 13, 2010 at 10:17 am
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UPDATE: Brittany Mae Smith has been found safe and sound in San Francisco. She was outside a grocery store begging for money with Jeffrey Easley when a shopper recognized them from national news reports on her disappearance. They'd been living in a tent erected nearby. See update after the jump...

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Brittany's mother was found murdered after she didn't show up for work, and Brittany wasn't at school
Tina Smith's coworkers were worried when she didn't show up for work yesterday morning. So they asked police in Salem, Virginia to do a welfare check on her home. That's where officers found the 41-year-old woman dead, apparently murdered. And her 12-year-old daughter was missing.

Brittany Mae Smith was not at school. Nor had anyone seen her for several days. Police immediately began a search for Jeffrey Scott Easley, a friend of Tina's. He'd apparently been living in the home until recently, though we're not sure if he was Tina's boyfriend or not.

Police aren't releasing any details on how Tina died. Nor are they saying why Easley was swiftly identified as a prime suspect in Brittany's disappearance. They do believe, however, that Brittany is in extreme danger.

An Amber Alert has been issued for Brittany. Last night, officers found Easley's SUV. But Tina's 2005 Dodge Neon is still missing.

Easley is described as white, 265 pounds, and 5-foot-11. Brittany is just 5-feet-tall and weighs 100 pounds.

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Brittany was caught on surveilance cameras with Easley at Walmart three days before Tina Smith's body was found

UPDATE: Brittany Mae Smith caught on camera before her mother was found murdered.

Police say they found surveillance video of Brittany shopping at Walmart with Easley last Friday, though they're not sure if this was before or after Tina Smith's murder. Her body was found Monday, though detectives haven't said when they believe she died, or how she was killed.

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Police believe Brittany may be willingly traveling with Easley

They're also not ruling out that Brittany could be willingly traveling with Easley. But they are insistent that the seventh-grader at Glenvar Middle School is still very much in danger.

The 32-year-old Easley is now wanted on credit card fraud charges for using Tina's credit card at the Walmart. He apparently met Tina online over the summer, and moved into their home in October.

UPDATE II: Brittany's grandma was worried about her relationship with Easley.

Elizabeth Dyer, Tina Smith's mom, says she called Halifax County Social Services just days before Brittany disappeared, telling them that something wasn't right about her granddaughter's relationship with Easley. But she was told that nothing could be done without physical evidence.

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Brittany's grandmother was worried that the girl was having a relationship with Jeff Easley

Elizabeth won't say what led her to believe Easley might be going perv on the girl, since police have asked her to keep quiet. She does hope that Halifax County will release its records on the case. The county, however, says it can't comment due to confidentiality laws.

The search for Brittan now spans eight states, including North Carolina, California, Florida, Alabama, West Virginia, Ohio and Kentucky. Police are paying special attention to campgrounds and rest areas. They say Easley purchased camping equipment at Walmart only days before Tina was found dead.

Easley has been previously accused of domestic violence when he was married and living in Alabama. Police there were aware of the accusations, but say they don't immediately have records available to see if they'd been called to Easley's home before he was divorced last year.

Easley did get a disorderly conduct pinch in 2006 after he was caught in a tow truck yard trying to take back a car that had been token. 

UPDATE III: Brittany has been found safe and sound in San Francisco.

Though police had assumed she and Easley were camping somewhere along the Eastern seaboard, they now believe the pair fled Virginia the day Tina was killed, heading more than 2,000 miles west to San Fransisco.

But moron Easley hadn't thought his plan through. He couldn't continue to use Tina's credit cards without being traced by the cops. And he'd apparently ran out of cash. They were living in a tent in San Francisco when a shopper spotted them outside a Safeway grocery with a sign begging for money.

The person recognized the two from national news stories.

Brittany has been turned over to California social workers. Easely is in jail on credit card fraud charges. Both will be brought back to Virginia. Police still aren't saying whether Brittany went willingly with Easley, nor have they said what -- if anything -- the pair have said about Tina Smith's murder.

See our last story from the Missing file: Kara Kopetsky, 17, Disappears Following Choking, Restraining Order Against Her Boyfriend.

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