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Abduction case goes to grand jury

Although she was present in a nearby witness room, 12-year-old Brittany Smith did not testify in Roanoke County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court on Tuesday at a preliminary hearing when charges were certified against the man accused of abducting her and taking her to California.

The girl’s father, South Boston Police Officer B. H. Smith, did take the witness stand and emphatically denied accused abductor Jeffrey Easley had any form of custody of the Glenvar Middle School student.

A Roanoke County Grand Jury will decide on April 1 if there is sufficient evidence for the case to be tried in circuit court.

Meanwhile, Easley remains in the Western Virginia Regional Jail, despite his attorney’s attempts to get Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court Judge Philip Trompeter to set bond and allow Easley to be electronically monitored from home.

Testimony by Roanoke County Police Officer J. D. Clark, lead crime scene investigator, revealed Tina Smith was found murdered and bound with red, white and black cords in an upstairs bedroom on Dec. 6.

Her hands were swollen, and she had suffered injuries to her head, Clark said. Her daughter and Easley, Smith’s boyfriend, were missing from the house as was her Dodge Neon.

Following a nationwide Amber Alert, Brittany and Easley were found Dec. 10 camping in downtown San Francisco, Calif. The missing car was recovered near the airport, a Roanoke County detective testified.

Until now, Roanoke County Police had not released any information on where in the house Tina Smith was found and still have not said how she was killed.

Following Tuesday’s court hearing, Commonwealth Attorney Randy Leach said he and police are still waiting for DNA and other evidence results from the medical examiner’s office.

No one has been charged with Tina Smith’s murder.

During cross examination, Easley’s court-appointed attorney, Thomas W. Roe Jr., asked Brittany’s father if he was on administrative leave from the South Boston Police Department when Tina Smith was last seen alive, Dec. 3.

He also asked if there had been a protective order in place prohibiting her father from having contact with Brittany.

Ben Smith answered yes to both questions but said the protective order had been lifted.

When Roe asked if Brittany “is not living with you at this time,” Leach objected to the question, and the judge upheld the objection.

According to Tina Smith’s sister, Tracey White, who was in the courtroom Tuesday, Brittany is living with her father. Ben Smith testified that he had joint custody of Brittany with her mother before Tina Smith’s death.

When Roanoke County detectives accompanied Brittany back from California the same night as co-workers at Richfield Retirement Community held a memorial service for her mother, Dec. 13, police turned the girl over to her father, Roanoke County Police said.

Easley’s mother, Sallie Martin of Franklin County, walked out of court midway Tuesday after a bailiff admonished her twice about talking, which is not permitted during court.

Inside the courtroom, people could hear her becoming hysterical in the lobby, asking deputies, “Why are you doing this to me?”

She did not return to the courtroom during the remainder of the 25-minute preliminary hearing.

 

(EDITOR’S NOTE: This story is reprinted with permission from The Salem Times-Register.)