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After an extensive search, Virginia law enforcement authorities believe they’ve found the body of missing woman who vanished last week while leaving her job at a convenience store.
The Northumberland Sheriff’s Office announced Tuesday that they had found a body “matching the description of Ahreal Smith” on a property in Heathsville, just days after a suspect was arrested in connection with her abduction.
Investigators took 50-year-old Tyrone N. Samuel into custody Saturday, but have yet to find a motive in the disappearance.
Sheriff Johnny Beauchamp told People that investigators “have reason to believe” that Smith and Beauchamp knew each other but “not as a relationship, more as an acquaintance.”
The body has been sent to the medical examiner’s office in Richmond for an autopsy and positive identification, authorities said.
Beauchamp said in an earlier press conference that authorities were called to the Little Sue Food Store in Claraville at 4:46 a.m. Thursday morning by a coworker who had arrived at the convenience store and discovered Smith’s car still running in the parking lot with no sign of her.
After reviewing the store’s surveillance footage, investigators determined that the night before Smith had gone out to her car and started it around 9:05 p.m. then returned to the store to lock up for the night. She was seen again around 9:18 p.m. when she went outside and got into another vehicle, before exiting that car, going back inside and turning on the alarm and locking the door of the business.
Investigators have identified the driver of that vehicle and said the person was not considered a suspect.
“She then grabbed a bag of trash that was on the front stoop, walked toward the dumpsters on the east side of the building out of camera view. She was not seen on camera again,” Beauchamp said, adding that her car remained running until it was discovered the next morning.
Investigators brought in a K-9 unit that was able to track Smith’s scent from the dumpsters about 100 yards to a nearby road, where the trail ended.
“We believe this is where she may have gotten into a vehicle,” Beauchamp said at the press conference.
It’s not clear what ultimately led authorities to Samuel, but according to the sheriff, the “entire detective division” has been working the case.
“Some of working on digital evidence, some are conducting interviews and some are assigned to track down leads,” he said.
Oxygen.com reached out to Beauchamp but did not receive an immediate response.
Smith’s older sister Lydia Smith told News Nation Prime that in the days before her sister disappeared, she had said someone at the store had “made her feel uncomfortable.”
“She never really said a name but she said that someone you know made her feel uncomfortable, but not that she was afraid,” Lydia said.
She added that nothing appeared to be out of the ordinary in the surveillance footage of her sister’s final moments before the abduction.
“Somebody was waiting and they snatched her,” she said.
The family is still waiting to find out why.
“I wish I could have kept her safe,” Lydia said.
Anyone with information about the case, is asked to contact authorities at 804-580-5221.
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