A 5-year-old girl and her great-grandmother who went missing during a Christmas Eve drive to North Carolina have been found alive in Virginia, police said Wednesday evening.
The Township of Hamilton police in New Jersey posted an advisory about 6:30 p.m. saying Barbara Briley, 71, and 5-year-old La’Myra Briley “have been located, alive, in Virginia.”
A statement from Virginia State Police spokeswoman Corinne Geller said the Brileys were found inside their vehicle on private property in Dinwiddie County south of Richmond just before 5 p.m. Wednesday, according to the Associated Press.
The statement said Barbara Briley was flown by helicopter to VCU Medical Center in Richmond for treatment. La’Myra was alert and appeared unharmed but was taken for medical evaluation. The statement gave no further details.
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The Brileys left New Jersey on Christmas Eve but never arrived in North Carolina, where they planned to visit family in Morven, a small town in Anson County about 110 miles southwest of Raleigh.
Family and law enforcement had been searching for the Brileys since Christmas Eve. Before they were found, they were last seen around 5:30 p.m. at an Exxon station in Ruther Glen, Va., an unincorporated community near Interstate 95.
Jennifer Lindsey, Barbara Briley’s niece who lives in Morven, said her aunt was on the phone with family members as late as 8 p.m. Saturday. But no one could reach her by 10 p.m., she said.
The family put up fliers along the route Briley would have traveled, and they searched the area.
On Tuesday, Briley’s cellphone pinged a cell tower in Dinwiddie County near Petersburg, Virginia, between 1:30 and 2 a.m., said Caroline County Lt. Travis Nutter said Wednesday afternoon, before they were found.
The phone was “quickly turned back off, and there’s been no other traces on the phone since then,” he said.
“The cell companies are not able to get a geographical location of the phone,” Nutter said. “All they can say is that phone was somewhere in the radius of that cell tower when it turned on.”
Since learning of the Brileys’ disappearance, the Caroline County Sheriff’s Office has obtained surveillance footage from the gas station, talked to a witness and conducted a search of the area.
“We went from business to business alongside the interstate,” Nutter said. “That was on Christmas Day.”
The surveillance video, which the department released Wednesday, showed Barbara Briley stopping and asking for help with her GPS.
“We feel pretty comfortable in saying there’s no reason to believe that any foul play occurred at that Exxon station,” Nutter said. “But obviously, none of us can say what happened once she got out of that camera view. No one has seen her since.”
Nutter said the witness at the gas station, who said he spoke with Barbara Briley, said she asked for directions to get back onto the interstate.
“The witness told us that he saw the child in the backseat of the car,” Nutter said. “He didn’t see anyone else in the car, and nothing seemed out of place.”
Briley’s bank account has not been used since she went missing, Nutter said.
The Township of Hamilton Police Department in New Jersey is leading the investigation, but multiple other law enforcement agencies from New Jersey to North Carolina, as well as the Federal Bureau of Investigation, are involved.
North Carolina State Highway Patrol troopers checking on stranded motorists had not found anything related to the Brileys, said spokesman Sgt. Michael Baker.
Kathryn Trogdon: 919-829-4845: @KTrogdon