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Police don't know if missing Virginia girl went with man willingly

By the CNN Wire Staff
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12-year-old girl abducted; mom dead
  • Brittany Mae Smith's mother had met Jeffrey Scott Easley on the Internet
  • Easley, 32, had moved in with the girl and her mother in October
  • Tina Smith, 41, was found dead Monday in the Salem, Virginia, home
  • Virginia
  • Kidnapping

(CNN) -- A missing 12-year-old Virginia girl -- whose mother was found dead inside their home -- is believed to be with a 32-year-old man the mother met on the Internet, authorities said Tuesday, but they don't know whether she went with him willingly.

Police are "still actively searching" for Brittany Mae Smith, and have extended an Amber Alert for another 24 hours, Roanoke County Police Chief Ray Lavinder told reporters.

Authorities launched a search for the seventh-grader Monday after officers found the body of her mother, Tina Smith, 41, inside the family's Salem, Virginia, home. Tina Smith's co-workers contacted police after the woman failed to show up for work Monday morning. Her death is being investigated as a possible homicide, authorities said.

"We are extremely concerned for Brittany's safety," Lavinder said.

Police are "confident" that Brittany Smith is with Jeffrey Scott Easley, Lavinder said. He described Easley as a "friend of the family" who met the girl online over the summer and "developed a relationship" with her. Easley moved in with Smith and her daughter in October, the chief said.

Authorities aren't sure whether Brittany Smith was kidnapped, however. "We believe that she's with him, and we're not exactly sure about the situation," Lavinder said. He said police would like the girl to "at least contact us and let us know that she's OK."

Asked whether police believe Easley is responsible for Tina Smith's death, Lavinder said authorities have no information to indicate that, but that the investigation is ongoing.

"We would like to get Brittany back safely," he said. "We would like to get Mr. Easley back and make sure he's OK, and then we'd like to investigate the murder of Tina."

After finding Tina Smith's body, police soon got information that Brittany Smith's whereabouts were unknown, leading them to issue the statewide alert.

"We found out pretty quickly that [Brittany] had not shown up for school. Nobody seemed to know where she was. We're concerned that her disappearance is going to be, at least a good possibility, it has something to do with the homicide," Roanoke County Police Lt. Chuck Mason said Monday, according to CNN affiliate WSET of Lynchburg, Virginia.

Virginia's Amber Alert website noted early Monday evening that Easley's car, a 2000 red Chevrolet SUV, had been found. But authorities are still looking for Tina Smith's vehicle, a silver 2005 Dodge Neon four-door sedan with Virginia license plates.

Easley, a 265-pound white male, is 5 feet, 11 inches tall, has brown hair and hazel eyes, the Amber Alert says. Brittany Smith is 5 feet tall, weighs 100 pounds, and has straight brown hair and brown eyes.

Hall said authorities don't yet have a specific search area, as they are uncertain which direction Easley might be heading or how far he might have gotten. They have asked anyone with information to call 911 or Roanoke County police at 540-777-8641.