March 16, 2010 -- Searchers looking for a missing Washington state woman and her 8-year-old son who haven't been seen since Saturday say that the road leading to the beach where her submerged minivan was recovered is heavily timbered and very difficult to find without knowing the area.
"I couldn't even find the access road, and it was light out," said Lt. Chris Mealy of the Thurston County Sheriff's Office. "You really have to know where it is. It's the kind of road you don't want to take because it's so steep and narrow."
"It's very rare for someone who doesn't know the area to wind up where her van wound up," Mealy said.
Shantina Smiley, 29, and her son Azriel Carver were last seen Saturday evening driving from their home in Silverlake, Wash., to Smiley's stepfather's home 120 miles south in Castlerock, Wash. They left for their journey at approximately 5 p.m., said Mealy.
"It's day three and I'm still being really positive that she's going to show up," Smiley's fiance Robb Simmons told ABCNews.com. "I'm doing everything that I can do and if I could turn this state upside down and shake her out from wherever she is, I would."
Investigators found Smiley's wallet, ID card and credit card in the van, but no purse. There were also no overnight bags in the van, despite the fact that Smiley and her son were planning to go away for the weekend.
"We don't have a suspect because we don't know if it's a crime," said Mealy. "Our options are open. We're not saying it's foul play and we're not saying it's not, and we're not saying she didn't voluntary leave."
"We can't explain what the hell she was doing out there, if she was even out there at all," the lieutenant said.
Divers searched the waters for a second day Tuesday, but found nothing.
Asked whether it's possible that they got lost in the nearby woods, Mealy said that there are too many houses with porch lights on for them to not have been able to get help.
"This woman had no enemies, no history of domestic abuse and no spousal abuse. From all indications she was a very stable woman, a very loving woman," said Mealy. "And she had a job as a medical coder."
"I don't have any freaking clue what happened."
The Mysterious Disappearance of Shantina Smiley and Her Son
Almost two hours after she left her home for the trip to Castlerock, Smiley called Simmons, who was supposed to be rendez-vous with them in Castlerock. Simmons said that during the phone call Smiley asked him to bring her cellphone because she had accidently left it behind. Smiley also complained about the heavy traffic in the area, which Mealy says is common for the time of day.
Her bizarre journey is documented by a series of surveillance cameras. Smiley and her son were spotted just before 8 p.m. at a small mom and pop shop, the Handy Pantry Food Store in Olympia where surveillence video captures them making a purchase.
At 9:08 p.m. Smiley and her son pull into the Martin Way Diner where they ordered a corn dog to go. Surveillence video from the diner caught Smiley leaving the restaurant after paying, tripping and falling in the parking lot, and then getting up and driving away with her son.
They never returned for the corn dog.
Mealy said surveillence video also recorded Smiley and her son on the northwest side of Olympia peering into the windows of the Gull Harbor Market at 9:55 p.m., which was closed.
Smiley and her son keep driving, but away from the freeway. At 10 p.m. Smiley knocked on the door of a private residence where an elderly couple invited her and her son in and allowed Smiley to use the phone.
"The elderly couple gives the kid a piece of pizza, and Smiley calls her grandfather and says that these people are going to give her directions and that she got lost, but will be on her way," said Mealy.
Mealy also said that Smiley told her grandfather that she had been in an accident, but that authorities are not sure if she is talking about falling in the diner parking lot or another accident that has not yet been discovered.
The directions the couple gave Smiley to get back to the freeway are "not at all complicated," according to Mealy, who said the freeway is very well lit and would have been hard to miss.
Instead of taking the couple's directions, Mealy goes the opposite direction, again being recorded on the surveillence camera of the closed market.
Shantina Smiley Drove in the Opposite Direction of the Highway
"It would be obvious with anyone with any sense, but then again I don't know what her state of mind is, that you weren't heading toward the freeway," said Mealy.
"Unfortunately the next thing we know is that we're recovering her van from a private beach at 11:15 a.m. the next day," he said.