Skip to main content

Virginia man arraigned in cross-country abduction of girl, 12

By the CNN Wire Staff
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Jeffrey Scott Easley remains in a Roanoke County jail
  • Easley has been arraigned on child abduction charges
  • He is accused of taking a 12-year-old girl on a cross-country trek
  • A Virginia police chief said Easley is a "very good suspect" in the slaying of the girl's mother

(CNN) -- A Virginia man was arraigned Friday on charges he abducted a 12-year-old girl whose mother was later found dead and took her across the country before being spotted outside a San Francisco supermarket.

Jeffrey Scott Easley, 32, was arraigned in the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court in Roanoke County, two days after being escorted back to Virginia by two county police detectives.

He is being held without bond in the Roanoke County jail in Salem, county spokeswoman Teresa Hall said by e-mail.

Exactly one week earlier, Theresa Shanley spotted Easley and the girl outside a Safeway store in the Richmond district of San Francisco, then alerted police. Easley was subsequently arrested on abduction charges, as well as counts of credit card theft and credit card fraud. He waived extradition.

Roanoke County Police Chief Ray Lavinder has said that Easley is a "very good suspect" in the murder of Tina Smith, the mother of the girl he allegedly abducted. No one has been charged in the 41-year-old woman's death.

On Friday, Easley was granted his request for a court-appointed attorney, who will be Thomas Roe, according to a statement from Hall. The lead prosecutor will be Randy Leach.

Easley had been held without bond on the abduction charge. The next hearing in the case is scheduled for February 8 in the same court, Hall said.

Easley arrived in Roanoke around 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, but bad weather Thursday prompted authorities to push his arraignment back one day.

Police believe that Tina Smith, who was Easley's girlfriend, was killed between the morning and evening of December 3, Lavinder said. Surveillance video taken that day shows Easley and the girl buying a blue domed tent at a Walmart store in Salem.

Lavinder said authorities believe the two left Virginia that night or early the next day. They traveled cross-country in Tina Smith's silver 2005 Dodge Neon sedan, which was found in a parking lot adjacent to San Francisco International Airport after authorities found Easley.

An Amber Alert was issued for the girl December 6, after police found Tina Smith's body inside her Salem home and discovered that her daughter was missing. From the beginning, public notices named Easley as the girl's alleged abductor.

Shanley said that she saw the girl sitting on a curb outside the northern California store while Easley was begging for money.

The Safeway was within walking distance of a makeshift campsite containing the tent in which Easley and the girl had been staying.

Shortly before being reunited with his daughter Monday night, Benjamin Smith expressed gratitude to the numerous people who worked on the case and who publicized the names and faces of his daughter, Brittany. He singled out Shanley -- who said she recognized the pair from images she had seen on HLN's "Nancy Grace" show -- as "my hero."