Relatives of missing 12-year-old Brittany Mae Smith appealed today to the man suspected of holding her to let the girl come home safely for Christmas.
The women, all sisters of Brittany's murdered mother Tina Smith directed their pleas at Jeffrey Scott Easley, a 32-year-old man who moved in with Brittany and her mother in October and was last seen on a surveillance camera leaving a Walmart store in Salem, Va., with Brittany last Friday.
"Mr. Easley, I know you don't know me, but, sir, please let Brittany come home for Christmas," said Rhonda, one of Brittany's aunts, at a press conference. The women did not want to reveal their last names.
Another aunt said, "Jeff, we hope you'll do the right thing and bring Britt home. We'd like to have her back so we can say goodbye and make final funeral plans for her mom."
The search for Brittany and Easley now spans eight states and police have received 500 tips..
"I've been in police work a long time... not to hear anything or not to have any confirmed sightings, that's a great deal of concern to me," Roanoke County, Va., Police Chief Ray Lavinder said.
Police issued an Amber Alert for Brittany on Dec. 6 after discovering the body of her 41-year-old mother.
A coroner ruled the death a homicide. Police said that finding Brittany and Easley is key to the murder investigation.
"I think that once we locate Brittany -- and we're concerned about her safety and that's paramount in our objectives here -- once we locate her and Mr. Easley, I think that will open a lot of doors for us in the homicide investigation," Lavinder said at a press conference earlier this week.
The search for the missing seventh grader led law enforcement to issue Amber Alerts in North Carolina, California, Florida, Alabama, West Virginia, Ohio and Kentucky. Billboards with Brittany's picture have also been put up in those states too.
Along with the expanded search, authorities said that Easley bought camping equipment including a blue, Ozark Trail domed tent.
"It could be at a camping facility or it could be anywhere," Lavinder said of the tent.
On Wednesday, Virginia police obtained a felony warrant against Easley for the abduction of Brittany.
"We're certainly pursuing him to execute this warrant," Lavinder said. "Never forget the fact that she's a 12-year-old girl in the company of a 32-year-old man, she's at risk and we're very concerned about her safety."
The chief also said that investigators believe someone may be helping Easley and Brittany.
"I'm almost positive that someone out there knows where Brittany and Mr. Easley are. The weather has been very bad … they need food. Someone, if they are still in this region, is hiding them, I'm certain of that," Lavinder said.
Police aren't ruling out the possibility that Brittany may have gone willingly with Easley, but they reiterate that she is still in danger.
"We've heard a lot of rumors about a relationship between Mr. Easley and Brittany and I'd like to say this morning is -- what we're dealing with is a 12-year-old girl and she can't make legal decisions. Consent is irrelevant if she wanted to go with him or not go with him," Lavinder said.
As police focus on finding Brittany, friends of the missing girl's family said that Brittany's murdered mother, Tina, was too trusting.