Missing Virginia girl found unharmed in SF

This undated family photo provided by the Virginia State Police shows Brittany Mae Smith. Virginia State Police on Monday, Dec. 6, 2010 issued an Amber Alert for the 12-year-old Roanoke County girl who was reported missing after her mother was found dead. (AP Photo/Virginia State Police)

December 11, 2010 12:43:14 PM PST
A big thank you came from the grandmother of a kidnapped Virginia girl found safe in San Francisco. The resolution came thanks to one observant woman who recognized the girl and the man suspected of killing her mom.

Police in Roanoke say you cannot imagine how grateful they are to the San Francisco woman. They say their police station took on a party atmosphere when they got the call that their suspect was in custody and the 12-year-old victim was OK.

It was TV show host Nancy Grace that helped crack the case of missing 12-year-old Brittany Smith. Grace featured the girl prominently on her CNN show in the past week and urgently pleaded with viewers to look for her.

A San Francisco woman saw Grace's show and then went shopping near Ocean Beach where she spotted 32-year-old Jeffrey Scott Easley and Brittany Mae Smith.

"The person who contacted police had observed a television show on CNN stating that these people were the ones who were on the show that aired today," says San Francisco Police Officer Albie Esparza.

The two were standing near the grocery carts outside the store possibly panhandling. San Francisco police took Easley into custody without incident. They say Brittany is OK.

Her grandmother says the family is overjoyed and said, "Thank everybody. Bless each and every one of you. And if I could hug and kiss each one of you, I would."

"I can't express it. I'm happy, believe me, I'm happy and it's difficult to put into words," says Roanoke Police Chief Ray Lavinder.

Lavinder says his officers had feared the worst in this case. Brittany's mother was found murdered inside her home last Friday, the same day Easley -- whom she was dating -- and her daughter, Brittany, disappeared. Police suspect Easely in the murder.

"It's a fantastic sense of relief," says Lavinder.

Police in Roanoke say they are beyond thankful to the woman in San Francisco for being so observant 3,000 miles away from their case. ABC7 asked shoppers at the Safeway where they were found, on La Playa at Fulton, whether they recognized the two missing people.

"No, I don't recognize them," says Rahim Walker from San Francisco.

No one ABC7 spoke to would have stopped and reported the pair.

"That's really cool. Someone's paying better attention, that's good and I will definitely start paying better attention to faces and stuff because I would not have been able to place those because unfortunately, you see that stuff way too much," says Kyle O'Neill from San Francisco.

Four detectives from Roanoke will catch a flight to San Francisco early Saturday morning. They hope to question Easely and to personally thank the San Francisco shopper.


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