Easley pleads to Tina Smith murder, sentenced to life without parole
SALEM, VA – One year and two months after Roanoke County mother Tina Smith was found dead in the house she shared with her boyfriend Jeffrey Easley and her preteen daughter, Easley unexpectedly agreed to a plea and will be sentenced to life in prison without parole.
Easley appeared in Roanoke County Circuit Court today, Feb. 28. His case was due to be tried by a jury over 10 days in late March and April.
In Easley’s plea agreement, the abduction with intent to defile against him was not prosecuted. Under Virginia law, because he was charged with that separate felony in connection with the murder of Tina Smith, he could have faced the death penalty. In June 2011, the charge against Easley had been upped to capital murder, and a capital murder defense team appointed for him.
Easley has been in Western Virginia Regional Jail since shortly after Roanoke County detectives flew to San Francisco, Calif., to bring him back to the county in December 2010.
Easley was arrested California with then-12-year-old Brittany Smith, Tina Smith’s daughter, after a California mother recognized Brittany panhandling outside a local grocery store. Brittany’s photograph had been circulated as part of an Amber Alert, and the missing preteen had been the subject of a television show by Nancy Grace that the California mother saw.
Easley was initially charged with abducting Brittany. After a separate team of detectives brought Brittany back to Virginia and to her father, Bernie Smith of South Boston, Easley was charged with abduction with intent to defile, and later, murder of Tina Smith.
Roanoke County Police did not release Tina Smith’s cause of death, and in court preliminary hearings, only said she was found bound with cords and with reddish marks on her head.
Smith was found by co-workers from Richfield Retirement and Care Center where she was a registered nurse. They went to the home near Fort Lewis Elementary School on Dec. 10, 2010, after the usually dependable nurse did not show up for work for two days.
It was determined Brittany had not been seen since the Friday before at Glenvar Middle School, and then on surveillance cameras at the Salem Walmart that evening with Easley. They had a shopping cart filled to overflowing with camping gear, gallons of milk and other supplies.
Tina Smith’s missing car was found in San Francisco also. Police there located a campsite in a park where Easley and Brittany apparently had been staying.
For more coverage, read this weeks’s March 1 issue of the Salem Times-Register.