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After nearly a week, no sign of missing girl, suspected abductor

Family members issued an appeal for the return of 12-year-old Brittany Mae Smith during a press conference Thursday afternoon at Roanoke County Police Headquarters.

Three of the girl’s aunts — all sisters of her deceased mother, Tina Dyer Smith — spoke to the media Thursday.

The three implored 32-year-old Jeffrey Scott Easley, Smith’s alleged abductor, to “do the right thing” and to “please let Brittany come home for Christmas.”

Also present at the press conference were Tina Smith’s brother and brother-in-law, but they did not address the media.

Roanoke County authorities expressed concern during the Thursday press conference that there have been no sightings of Brittany Smith in nearly a week. 

The 12-year-old former South Boston resident has not been seen since the night of Friday, Dec. 3, when security cameras captured Smith and Easley, as they were leaving a Walmart in Salem.

The girl’s mother, 41-year-old Tina Dyer Scott, was found dead Monday morning in the Salem home she shared with her daughter and Easley.

Police realized a 12-year-old child was missing, and Virginia State Police issued a statewide Amber Alert Monday for Brittany Smith.

Members of the girl’s family made an emotional plea for her safe return during a press conference Wednesday night in Roanoke County.

Members of Brittany’s father’s side of the family traveled from Danville and North Carolina Wednesday to meet with authorities and address the media. Her father, Benjamin H. Smith, is a South Boston Police Officer.

He did not appear on camera during the Wednesday night press conference, but Brittany’s aunt and three of her cousins were present.
Brittany’s cousin, Kim Stephenson, and aunt, Carolyn Stephenson, used the opportunity to speak directly to Brittany, telling her how much they love her and want her home for Christmas.

On Thursday morning, law enforcement officials thought police had found Easley in a Shell gas station restroom in West Palm Beach, Florida, but the man was not the alleged abductor of the 12-year-old, said Roanoke County Public Information Director Teresa Hamilton Hall.

A clerk at the gas station said he thought the man who came in and asked for the key to the restroom looked familiar and notified the local sheriff’s department, police officials said.

A SWAT team entered the restroom and pulled the man out. West Palm Beach authorities said the man looked similar to Easley and was apparently suffering from a drug overdose.

Roanoke County Police Chief Ray Lavinder said during the Thursday afternoon press conference Easley’s weight in the police department’s previous description of the alleged abductor was listed at 265 pounds. Lavinder corrected that, saying he is more like 215 pounds.

Roanoke County Police released new information Wednesday afternoon in the search for Smith and Easley. While at Walmart in Salem Friday night, Easley purchased a blue Ozark Trail 13x10 dome camping tent and other miscellaneous camping gear, Hall said.

Law enforcement has been actively scouring campsites and facilities within the region, she added.

Authorities have obtained a felony arrest warrant for Easley, said Chief Lavinder during a news conference Wednesday morning in the lobby of the Roanoke County Public Safety Center.

“Brittany is a 12-year-old child, and she’s in the company of a 32-year-old man,” said Lavinder. “As to what relationship Jeff Easley and Brittany may have between them is irrelevant. With a child, consent is irrelevant in the eyes of the law. She is a victim.”

As teams of Roanoke County, state and federal law enforcement, and representatives from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children pursue more than 500 tips on this case, new information has been developed concerning the description of the missing silver 2005 Dodge Neon, Virginia tag XKF-2365, said Hall.

“The Neon has a spoiler or ‘fin’ on the back of it,” she said. The car belonged to Brittany’s mother, Tina Smith, and has been missing since Friday.

Virginia State Police also are working with North Carolina, Alabama, West Virginia, Kentucky, Ohio and Florida to issue alerts in their states for the missing vehicle, Smith and Easley, said Hall. The interest in these states is based on the location of family and friends, as well as information coming in during the course of the investigation.

Chief Lavinder warned anyone hiding or helping Easley that harboring a wanted person is a crime in Virginia. “I am confident that somebody out there knows where these two are,” the chief said.