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Tuesday
Dec072010

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

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(SALEM, Va.) -- Virginia police who issued an Amber Alert for 12-year-old Brittany Mae Smith determined Tuesday that the girl's mother was murdered, and they 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 41-year-old mother Tina Smith in their home. An autopsy on her body was concluded Tuesday.

"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.

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 Tuesday 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."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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