DINWIDDIE, VA (WWBT) - A missing 71-year-old and her great-granddaughter may have been in the Tri-Cities of Petersburg, Hopewell and Colonial Heights, Virginia as recently as early Tuesday morning, according to New Jersey police.
The cellphone of Barbara Briley may also have been tracked to Dinwiddie, as police continue to search for her and 5-year-old LaMyra. The pair were last seen on Christmas Eve when they stopped for gas in Ruther Glen on their way down Interstate 95 from New Jersey to Anson County, NC. Barbara had stopped and asked a store clerk for help using her GPS.
"I spent 30 to 45 minutes with her, talking to her, to make sure everything was okay before she left the store," said employee Joanna Strange.
Family members say she was asking for directions. Her niece was on the phone with her at the time and suggested she go inside the store to ask for help with her GPS app on her phone. Recently released surveillance video from the Caroline County Sheriff's Office shows Barbara entering into the store around 5:39 pm on Christmas Eve, walking out of the store six minutes later.
According to family members, she was asking for the store's address so that her niece could attempt to look up directions from the niece's home in North Carolina. She then told Barbara to go back inside the store to simply ask an employee to punch the destination in her GPS. Surveillance video shows her re-entering the store around 5:51, where Strange helped her with the GPS.
"I hit the start button for her, I said just follow the arrow, it will show you how to go," said Strange. "There didn't seem to be anything wrong, she simply seemed tired."
The store's video system shows Barbara's silver 2014 Toyota RAV4 with New Jersey license plate C80-ELS pulling out of the Exxon parking lot at 6:06 pm. No one has seen Barbara or LaMyra since. The phone now goes directly to voicemail.
"Based on current investigative information, it is not believed that any criminal acts occurred in Caroline County, however, Caroline deputies continue to investigate this matter and are working closely with the Virginia State Police, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other," stated the Caroline County Sheriff's Office.
Tuesday morning brought a possible break in the case. A cell phone tower near the Dinwiddie airport picked up a possible signal from Barbara's cell phone. It could place her phone in the Tri-Cities area in the early hours of Dec. 27.
"I got in my car and I hurried to that area," explained Tammy Craig, with Faithfully Found. "I drove up and down 85, up and down Route 1, checking business, looking for cars, for anything that could have gone wrong."
She doesn't know the Brileys, but her organization aims to bridge the gap between law enforcement and families of those missing.
"That could be my grandmother, my child. That's someone's loved one," said Craig.
Police say they believe Barbara's cellphone "possibly pinged" near the Dinwiddie airport off Interstate 85.
"It's a very quiet airport. Not much happens, but everybody knows everybody so if somebody seen something, everybody would know," said Tyler Henley, who frequents the airport.
He began training at Dinwiddie's airport years ago and is shocked to learn the latest development. He doesn't know the family but feels a connection.
"It's kind of scary to think things like this happen. People just go missing," Henley said.
Relatives have said she would have traveled on I-95 through Richmond before taking I-85 to North Carolina. The family has been pressing Sprint to track Barbara's phone so they can find out where she may be.
Virginia State Police are helping search near the Dinwiddie airport, where a police helicopter was seen circling overhead.
Family says Barbara doesn't have any known medical conditions and has driven the route from NJ to NC many times, even making a career out of driving for the New Jersey Transit for more than three decades.
"She would do anything for anybody," said her grandson Deante Ramseur. "She's really a church lady…You just feel some type of way to have her gone…I'm really hoping her phone just died and she doesn't know where her charger is."
The family is tracing her route, handing out fliers to drivers and talking to truckers. Meanwhile, local law enforcement has checked in with local hotels and hospitals.
As for little LaMyra, they're hopeful she can help.
"If something is wrong with her great-grandmom and she can do something, she's going to do it. She's very smart," said Barbara's daughter, Teri Ramseur.
The family plans on being back in Dinwiddie on Wednesday to continue searching.
Barbara is 5-feet-5-inches tall and weighs about 215 pounds. LaMyra was last seen wearing a gray hooded jacket and gray sweat pants.
If you see Barbara or LaMyra, please call one of the following numbers: 609-892-4436; 919-247-8769; 704-851-9470; 609-241-4297.
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