Missing 12-year-old Brittany Mae Smith appears calm and doesn't express any alarm in newly released surveillance video of her with her alleged kidnapper, 32-year-old Jeffrey Scott Easley.
The video, taken Dec. 3 at a Salem, Va. Walmart, is the last sighting of the two in a week. In the video, Easley, wearing a white t-shirt, pushes the cart while Brittany walks close to him. Easley never appears to yell or grab Brittany. Brittany is never seen motioning for help. She helps Easley unload camping equipment while going through the checkout line.
Easley is seen talking on his cell phone while paying for the camping equipment. The two are stopped when their bags set off the security detector. They both remain calm and are allowed to leave the store after a Walmart clerk looks at their bags.
Police said that they have received nearly 600 tips but still have no leads. They're hoping that an appearance of Brittany's story on "America's Most Wanted" this weekend will lead to a break in the case.
Roanoke County police chief Ray Lavinder said that despite Brittany's seemingly calm appearance on the video, the lack of audio on the tape and the sometimes close space between the two makes it difficult for investigators to determine what the two are saying to one another.
"At times, there is space between the two of them, a very small space and you know you just can't evaluate what's been said, the threats that have been made," Lavinder said.
Lavinder reminded the public that Brittany is a 12-year-old child in the presence of a 32-year-old man wanted for questioning in the murder of her mother.
Yesterday, relatives of Smith, a seventh grader, 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. 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 digital billboards in several of those states ask citizens to be on the lookout. In addition to Virginia, investigators in North Carolina, California, Florida, Alabama, West Virginia, Ohio and Kentucky are on the case.
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 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.
On Dec. 8, 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.
Friends Describe Tina Smith As Trusting
As police focus 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 have 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, Virginia.
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'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."
Police Chief Urges Public To Be On The Lookout
Lavinder has asked motorists to be on the lookout for Tina Smith's 2005 silver Dodge Neon with the Virginia tag XKR-2365. Attached to the back of the car is a spoiler.
They are also hoping that Brittany is able to use her cell phone and send a message to friends she normally contacts daily.
Along with the warrant for abduction, police have filed charges of attempted credit card fraud and credit card larceny against Easley because the Walmart purchases were made with Tina Smith's credit card, according to a press release from the Roanoke County Police Department.
Brittany is 5 feet tall and weighs 100 pounds. She has straight brown hair and brown eyes. She is wearing several bracelets including a bright green rubber bracelet with yellow cursive writing. The bracelet is in memory of her brother who died last summer.
Brittany's brother accidentally killed himself in 2009 playing a choking game that led to his death. Tina Smith appeared on WSET afterwards.
"It'll prevent another mom from going through this, another life being lost, another sister crying out in her sleep for her brother," Tina Smith said.
If you know anything about Brittany Mae Smith's disappearance, authorities urge you to e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call the Roanoke County Police at 540-777-8641 or the Virginia State Police at 1-800-822-4453.