Brittany Mae Smith, the 12-year-old girl from Salem, Va., who went missing for a week, has been found safe in San Francisco.
"It is with a tremendous sense of relief that I can say we have located Brittany." Roanoke County, Va., Police Chief Ray Lavinder told reporters. "She's been in touch with her family. They're very relieved and I'm assuming maybe a family member will go out there and escort her back."
Police in Roanoke, Va., added that Jeffrey Scott Easley, 32, was in custody in connection with the case, and charged with abduction and credit card fraud. He was a suspect both in Brittany's disappearance and in the death of her mother, Tina Smith.
Lavinder said Brittany and Easley were spotted by a police tipster in an unspecified retail store in San Francisco. Police soon took the pair into custody without resistance.
"They were located somewhere near a tent, which was apparently located somewhere within walking distance of the retail store" where the tipster recognized them from media coverage, Lavinder said.
He added that Brittany was talking to police in San Francisco, and Virginia authorities would seek Easley's extradition back to Virginia.
"Hopefully, he'll waive extradition and be back here with us in Virginia within the week," Lavinder said.
Police issued an Amber Alert for Brittany on Dec. 6 after discovering the body of her 41-year-old mother, Tina Smith.
A coroner ruled the death a homicide. Police said that finding Brittany and Easley was key to the murder investigation.
The search for Brittany and Easley spanned eight states. Digital billboards in several of those states asked citizens to be on the lookout. In addition to Virginia and California, investigators in North Carolina, Florida, Alabama, West Virginia, Ohio and Kentucky worked the case.
Police said the girl was with Easley when they were found. Authorities say that even if she left with him somewhat willingly, she's a child and still considered a victim.
The two appeared in a surveillance video released yesterday, taken Dec. 3 at a Salem, Va., Walmart, shortly after the girl first was reported missing.
In the video, Brittany appeared calm. Easley, wearing a white t-shirt, pushed a shopping cart while Brittany walked close to him. Brittany never was seen motioning for help. She helped Easley unload camping equipment while going through the checkout line.
Police said that they received nearly 600 tips in the case.
Thursday, relatives of Smith, a seventh grader, publicly appealed to the man suspected of holding her to let the girl come home safely for Christmas.
"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.
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 women did not want to reveal their last names.
Friends Describe Tina Smith as Trusting
As police focused on finding Brittany, friends of the missing girl's family said that Brittany's murdered mother, Tina, was too trusting.
Lisa Ennemoser and Mark Lankford said they had known Tina Smith since childhood.
"She would give you the shirt off her back, she would do anything to make you laugh," Ennemoser told ABC affiliate WSET in Lynchburg, Va.
Now, police are investigating whether Tina Smith's willingness to let Easley live with her and her daughter led to her daughter's disappearance and her own death.
Tina Smith and Easley began an online relationship this summer. Easley moved into the family's home in October. He worked as a landscaper.
Along with questions about the nature of Tina Smith's relationship with the man, investigators are still determining Easley's relationship with Brittany.
The missing seventh grader's Facebook page lists her name as "Brittany Easley" instead of her legal name. Her MySpace page's latest update reads, "Brittany Easleys what they call me."