Reporter: David Tate
Roanoke Co., VA - A judge has certified the abduction charge against Easley and next the case will go to a grand jury.
Easley is accused of taking 12-year-old Brittany Mae Smith back in December after her mother, Tina, was found bound and beaten to death in her bedroom.
Some new information about the case came out in the preliminary hearing, but not nearly as much as was expected, although it was enough for a juvenile and domestic judge to find probable cause to move the abduction charge forward.
After establishing that Easley and Smith were together after Smith's mother was beaten to death, Roanoke County's commonwealth's attorney focused on exactly what custodial authority Easley had.
The commonwealth argued that Easley did not have permission, from the living parent, to take the 12-year old across state lines.
" Did you ever give permission for Brittany to travel to California with Mr. Easley?" the commonwealth's attorney asked Bennie Smith, Brittany's father.
He replied that he had not given that permission.
Defense lawyer Tom Rowe spent his early strategy tying to establish that Easley was the emergency contact for Brittany.
"It goes to who had the ability to be with Brittany and whether there was a custodial aspect to it of Mr. Easley having the ability to go to Walmart with Brittany," Rowe said.
No one called to the stand could confirm that.
The most difficult testimony came when Bennie Smith admitted to being on administrative leave from the South Boston Police Department prior to the alleged crime.
He also admitted that there was a court order keeping him from his daughter during some point last year, an order he said had ended by the time Brittany disappeared.
"I could have contact with her at that time," Bennie Smith said.
"We need to investigate and find out whether the father even had custody of this child. So that's going to be an issue that needs to be brought up," Rowe said.
Relatives say the young girl was in the courthouse, but she was not called to testify.
This case will now go before the April grand jury.
As for additional charges in relation to the murder of Tina Smith, the Commonwealth is still waiting on a substantial amount of forensic evidence to come back from the lab, while the defense admits that upcoming charges-against someone- are likely.
ROANOKE COUNTY, VA (February 8, 2011) – A preliminary hearing on a felony abduction charge was held in Roanoke County, VA Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court this morning for 32-year old Jeffrey Scott Easley. After evidence was presented, Judge Philip Trompeter ruled there was enough probable cause to certify the case to the next grand jury.
During the hearing, Judge Trompeter also denied Easley's request for bond and Easley continues to be held in the Western Virginia Regional Jail. Easley is charged with abducting 12-year old Brittany Mae Smith in December. Police realized the child was missing after her mother, Tina Smith, was discovered dead in the family's Roanoke County, VA home on December 6. Easley lived at the home with Brittany and Tina Smith.
Easley and Brittany were located in San Francisco, CA on December 10 after a woman at a supermarket recognized Brittany from national media reports about the case. Easley has not been charged, but has been named a suspect in Tina Smith's death. Police found Tina Smith not breathing and her body bound with cords in an upstairs bedroom of the home.
During the preliminary hearing prosecutors called Brittany's father to testify. Ben Smith told the court that Easley did not have his permission to take Brittany to California. A grand jury will meet next on April 1.