Over the weekend, authorities in San Francisco made arrests in two separate, alleged kidnappings. Both involved young girls in their early teens found with older men in their 30s, but the similarities end there. The more recent of the two ended when a relative of 15-year-old Jean Marie Berlinghoff of Redding, CA happened to spot her in San Francisco on Saturday by "pure coincidence and luck." Berlinghoff had been reported missing on Friday and was found, exactly as expected, with her Uncle who was accused of abducting the girl.
The other case began when 12-year-old Brittany Mae Smith and Jeffrey Scott Easley, 32, were last seen purchasing a tent at a Wal-Mart in Salem, Virginia over a week ago. Smith's mother Tina was found dead in her home in Roanoke County, VA and her death has been ruled a homicide. As Mrs. Smith's live-in boyfriend, Easley is a suspect, although authorities have not yet released the cause of death. Meanwhile, Easley and the younger Smith were picked up in San Francisco last Friday where they were found panhandling at the Ocean Beach Safeway.
As a native of Salem, Virginia this last case strikes particularly close to home for this SFist editor who once found himself at that very same Wal-Mart stocking the car for a roadtrip to San Francisco. Thankfully, Brittany is on her way home to Roanoke County, but ongoing coverage of the story has shaken up the quiet town and probably will continue to until the investigation of Tina Smith's murder is wrapped up. Easley currently remains in lockup in San Francisco until his extradition hearing tomorrow morning.