Autopsy Finds Missing Girl's Mom Was Murdered; Girl May Have Left Willingly

Photo: Surveillance video of Brittany Smith and Jeff Easley
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Virginia police who issued an Amber Alert for 12-year-old Brittany Mae Smith determined today that the girl's mother was murdered and want to talk to the 32-year-old man who lived with Smith and her mother.

Police are also not ruling out that Brittany left home willingly.

The missing child alert for Brittany was issued Monday when police found the body of her mother Tina Smith in their home. An autopsy on her body was concluded today.

"We have an active homicide investigation," state police spokeswoman Corinne Geller told ABC News. Geller said investigators were not releasing the cause of death or the time of death.

Police did release a surveillance camera photograph that captured Brittany leaving a Walmart store in her hometown of Salem, Va., Friday evening in the company of Jeffrey Scott Easley, a 32-year-old landscaper who met Tina Smith online this summer and moved into their house in October.

In the photo, Brittany appears at ease with the 265 pound Easley.

Geller said police do not yet know whether the Walmart photo was taken before or after Tina Smith's murder.

"We are still investigating to determine if the picture was taken before or after her death," the spokeswoman said.

When asked whether Brittany may have left willingly with Easley, Geller replied, "We are pursuing all possibilities. We are concerned about her well being and safety."

Geller also said, "As far as their relationship, we are still trying to determine that... we are not certain right now. But she is 12 and he is 32. She's definitely at risk."

Easley's mother Sallie Martin appeared at a police news conference today to plead with her son to turn himself in.

"From what I know about you and Brittany...." she said at point, but didn't finish the sentence. She added, "I know you're taking care of Brittany. If you would just take her somewhere and drop her off."

Referring to Tina Smith's homicide, Geller said, "We have not identified a suspect or obtained an arrest warrant."

Amber Alert for Brittany Mae Smith After Mother's Murder

But 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.

Roanoke County Police Chief Ray Lavinder asked motorists to be on the lookout for Tina Smith's 2005 silver Dodge Neon with the Virginia tag XKR-2365.

They are also hoping that Brittany is able to use her cell phone and send a message to one of her friends who she is normally is daily contact with.

"We certainly hope that they [Brittany's friends] can provide some information that we don't have at this time. We understand that she had some very close friends and she was in touch with them on an almost daily basis," Lavinder said.

"We are extremely concerned with Brittany's safety," the chief said.

Police discovered the death of Tina and Brittany's disappearance on Monday when they visited the family's home. "When our officers entered the residence, they found the body of 41-year-old Tina Smith. Her coworkers had contacted us after Mrs. Smith did not show up for work," Lavinder said.

Easley, described as 5-foot-11, 265 pounds, is believed to have family in North Carolina and Alabama. The two may be headed in that direction, police said.

Brittany is 5 feet tall and weights 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.

If you know anything about Brittany Mae Smith's disappearance, authorities urge you to email, or call the Roanoke County Police at 540-777-8641 or the Virginia State Police at 1-800-822-4453.

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