Skip to main content

Police query alleged abductor, a suspect in death of girl's mother

By the CNN Wire Staff
Police believe Brittany Mae Smith, 12, was kidnapped by her mother's boyfriend, 32-year-old Jeffrey Easley.
Police believe Brittany Mae Smith, 12, was kidnapped by her mother's boyfriend, 32-year-old Jeffrey Easley.
  • Virginia police meet with Jeffrey Easley and the girl he allegedly abducted
  • They also went to the San Francisco supermarket where the two were found
  • The girl and suspect were soliciting money outside the California store Friday
  • Easley is a "very good suspect" in the death of Tina Smith, the girl's mother, police say

(CNN) -- Virginia police detectives talked Sunday for the first time with a 12-year-old Virginia girl and the man who allegedly kidnapped her and has been deemed a prime suspect in her mother's death.

Roanoke County police Detective John McPhail said that Sunday morning he and three colleagues discussed the death of 41-year-old Tina Smith with Jeffrey Scott Easley, currently in police custody in San Francisco, California, on warrants for abduction, credit card theft and credit card fraud.

While police are investigating Tina Smith's death as a homicide, they have not said how she died.

They also talked with Brittany Mae Smith, Tina's daughter, who police had been searching for since Monday. McPhail said the girl "will be heading back to Roanoke soon," but did not disclose when exactly that might happen.

McPhail addressed reporters in front of San Francisco's Hall of Justice at 2 p.m. (5 p.m. ET) Sunday, a day after he and his three fellow detectives arrived in California from Virginia. All four have been assigned a particular aspect of a case that involves both the abduction of Brittany Smith and the death of her mother.

He did not disclose what police talked about with Easley or Brittany Smith, saying that the investigation was still ongoing.

Roanoke County Police Chief Ray Lavinder said Saturday that Easley is a "very good suspect" in the death of Tina Smith -- his girlfriend and Brittany's mother -- who was found dead inside her Salem, Virginia, home last Monday.

'Nancy Grace' viewer's tips
Police locate Brittany Mae Smith

Police believe that Tina Smith was killed sometime between the morning and evening of December 3, Lavinder has said. On that same day, surveillance video shows Easley and Brittany Smith shopping for a blue, domed tent at a Walmart in Salem.

Lavinder said that authorities believe the two left Virginia, heading west toward California, on that night or early Saturday, December 4. They travelled more than 2,300 miles in Tina Smith's silver 2005 Dodge Neon four-door sedan, later located in a parking lot adjacent to San Francisco International Airport after authorities had found Brittany Smith and Easley.

A tipster in a Safeway supermarket in San Francisco spotted the pair after seeing their images earlier on HLN's "Nancy Grace," police officials said. The two had been holding up a cardboard sign and asking for money, Lavinder said.

On Sunday, McPhail said that he and the other Virginia detectives visited the supermarket, as well as the area within walking distance where the tent had been found and Easley and Brittany Smith had been staying.

Esparza said Brittany was turned over to California's Child Protective Services division after she was found. She has no visible injuries and has been in touch with family members, according to Lavinder. Easley did not resist arrest, he added.

The chief has said Easley met Tina Smith online this summer, then moved into the family home in October.

Police issued an Amber Alert for Brittany on Monday after finding the body of her mother. Tina Smith's co-workers had called to express concern that she hadn't shown up for work.

Authorities in Florida and Alabama followed suit with Amber Alerts in subsequent days, and notices went out to law enforcement nationwide.

Authorities said they do not know if the girl went west willingly with Easley. Regardless, with Brittany Smith safely located, Virginia authorities say they have now turned their focus to the homicide investigation.

They are also trying to get Easley back east, though an extradition hearing hasn't taken take place in California courts. He could go to Virginia relatively soon if he waives extradition, or the process may be delayed weeks if he contests his return.