National News

Missing New Jersey family members found alive in Virginia

Posted December 29, 2016

— A New Jersey woman and her 5-year-old great-granddaughter have been found alive in secluded woods in rural Virginia, apparently stranded there for days after disappearing on a holiday road trip, authorities said.

Barbara Briley, 71, was unconscious when she was found Wednesday afternoon with her great-granddaughter, La'Myra Briley, in Dinwiddie County at least a mile from a paved road, Virginia State Police said. The girl was reported to be alert and unhurt.

State Police spokeswoman Corinne Geller said in a statement that the two were about 45 feet from their vehicle, stuck on a dirt road on private property, where a man found them. Authorities said it appears the two had snacks and drinks to get by.

The Brileys had been the focus of a multi-state search, and police added that no foul play was suspected in the disappearance. The county where the two were is in an area south of Richmond, Virginia's capital.

Barbara Briley was unconscious when she was found and was flown by helicopter to VCU Medical Center in Richmond, where she was in serious condition, police said. Authorities said La'Myra received a medical evaluation before being reunited with a family member.

The property owner spotted the car from a distance and went to check on it, 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.

The Brileys had left New Jersey on Christmas Eve to visit relatives in Anson County, N.C., but never arrived. They were last seen Saturday at a gas station in Ruther Glen, Va., about 30 miles north of Richmond.

Surveillance video from the gas station shows Barbara Briley walking inside about 5:40 p.m. Saturday. 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.

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.

Police said the evidence points to Briley having pulled onto a dirt road, which she then followed a short distance into the woods in Dinwiddie County. There, she drove over a small tree and got stuck in a remote area of the property when she tried to back up, according to police.

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.

"Thank you everyone who has assisted our family during this time. Our prayers have been answered," the Briley family said in a statement posted on Facebook. "We ask at this time if you will respect our privacy, and a formal statement will be issued later. God bless you all, and thank you again for praying for our family."

State troopers had searched around Ruther Glen area and along the Interstate 85 corridor from south of Richmond to the North Carolina line, scouring businesses and rest areas, 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, N.J., police, who didn't return messages seeking comment.

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  • Jenny Miller Dec 29, 2016
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    Finally a good news story. I was praying for them.

  • Benjamin Kite Dec 29, 2016
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    Thanks and good job to all who saved them by coordinated efforts. Be proud of yourselves, because you earned it.

  • Chris Davis Dec 29, 2016
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    I hope all will be ok. This was a scary story!