Missing N.J. Family Found in Virginia

December 29, 2016

RICHMOND, Va. — A New Jersey woman and her 5-year-old great-granddaughter have been found alive in Virginia, days after disappearing on a holiday road trip and evidence suggests the two had become stranded in remote woods, authorities said.

The 71-year-old woman, Barbara Briley, was unconscious when she was found beside a tree with her great-granddaughter La’Myra Briley on Dec. 28 in an area of Dinwiddie County south of Richmond and at least a mile from a paved road, Virginia State Police said.

Police spokeswoman Corinne Geller said in a statement that the two were near their vehicle, parked on private property, where they were discovered by a man.

Authorities said it appeared the two had been there for several days and had snacks and drinks to get by. The two had been the focus of a multi-state search.

Barbara Briley was flown by helicopter to VCU Medical Center in Richmond where she was listed in serious condition, the statement said. Authorities said the child appeared unharmed and was taken for a medical evaluation before being reunited with relatives.

The property owner had spotted the car from a distance and when he went to check on it, he found the two nearby, authorities said.

Maj. William Knott of the Dinwiddie County Sheriff’s Office said the man had seen news reports about the missing travelers, realized who the Brileys were and called 911. “This person probably saved them,” Knott said.

Barbara Briley was “not responsive to questions” when authorities arrived, but Knott said the child was “in good shape and very talkative” and is now back with family.

The Brileys had left New Jersey on Christmas Eve to visit relatives in North Carolina but never arrived. They were last seen last weekend at a gas station in Ruther Glen, Virginia, about 30 miles north of Richmond.

Surveillance video from the gas station shows Barbara Briley walking inside about 5:40 p.m. Dec. 24. She exits and re-enters before eventually pulling away just after 6 p.m., authorities said.

Gas station clerk Joanna Strange told local media that Briley came inside to say she was lost and she then helped the woman with her GPS before Briley went on her way.

Police said the evidence points to Briley having pulled off a dirt road into the woods in Dinwiddie County and then driving over a small tree, getting stuck when she tried to back up.

Family members have said Barbara Briley was a former driver for New Jersey Transit and had made the long trip numerous times. They also said she didn’t have any known medical issues.

A relative of Briley’s reached by The Associated Press declined comment, and VCU Medical Center didn’t immediately return a message.

Lt. Travis Nutter of the Caroline County Sheriff’s Office, which released the video, said nothing in the footage indicated any kind of suspicious activity at the gas station where the travelers were seen.

“That video is the last anybody saw of her, and what happened after that we truly don’t know,” he said.

State troopers had searched in the Ruther Glen area and along the Interstate 85 corridor from south of Richmond to the North Carolina line, state police spokesman Sgt. Stephan Vick said.

They used a helicopter and hunted for signs of guard rail damage or other evidence that a car may have run off the road, he said.

The North Carolina Highway Patrol also aided in the search. The investigation was being led by Hamilton Township, New Jersey, police, who didn’t immediately return messages seeking comment.


By SARAH RANKIN. AP writer Bruce Shipkowski contributed to this report from Toms River, New Jersey


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