Virginia detectives interview child abduction suspect

December 12, 2010 6:20:16 PM PST
Two days after a 12-year-old kidnapped Virginia girl was found safely in San Francisco, detectives from her home state were in the Bay Area to interview her and the man accused of driving her across the country.

Brittany Smith's great-aunt, Lois Choquette, told ABC7 she met Jeffrey Easely for the first time on Thanksgiving and was immediately suspicious about the way the 32-year-old man acted with her 12-year-old niece.

"He was touching her hair and touching her hands and just gazing at her," said Choquette. "It was like he wanted to consume her with his eyes. It was just gross."

Choquette said she called Child Protective Services and a child abuse hotline four times the following day and never heard back. She also called the girl's mother to express concern.

Roanoke detectives met outside San Francisco's Hall of Justice after a day of interviewing Brittany and the man now accused of kidnapping her in Virginia and driving her across the country.

"Now that she's been found, we will be headed back to Roanoke soon," said detective John McPhail. "The Roanoke police department's focus has shifted to the murder investigation."

Police say Easley is also a suspect in the murder of Brittany's mother, Tina Smith. She was found dead last week in her Virginia home. Family members say Easley and Tina Smith were romantically involved, and that he moved in to the home she shared with her daughter in October.

But if Easley or Brittany have shed any light on their cross-country journey, or the motive for it, investigators aren't saying.

"We don't want anything to jeopardize the case and the investigation back in Roanoke, and it's very important that we get justice for Tina Smith's family," said McPhail.

Surveillance video from a Virginia Walmart shows the last time Brittany and Easley were seen, on Dec. 3, buying camping gear.

Police believe in San Francisco they lived behind shrubs and trees in an encampment near Ocean Beach. They panhandled outside of a Safeway, and that's where a woman recognized the pair from a national television show Friday and called police.

Police are not saying when Brittany will be reunited with her father, a Virginia police officer. They also haven't said when an extradition hearing will take place for Easley.


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