Girl, great-grandmother found alive days after vanishing in Virginia woods

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 and surviving on snacks after disappearing on a holiday road trip, investigators announced.

Seventy-one-year-old Barbara Briley was unconscious when crews found her 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.


The two were near their SUV, stuck on a dirt road on private property where a man found them, police spokeswoman Corinne Geller said. The two apparently survived on snacks and drinks they'd brought with them, according to investigators.

The property owner had spotted the SUV from a distance and when he went to check on it, he found the two seated 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.


The SUV, a silver Toyota RAV4, was more than a mile from the main road, WTVR reported.

The two had been the focus of a multistate search. Police said they did not believe foul play was involved in the disappearance. The county where crews found them was south of Richmond, Virginia's capital.

Barbara Briley was flown by helicopter to VCU Medical Center in Richmond where she was in serious condition, police said. Authorities said the child appeared alert and unhurt and received a medical evaluation before being reunited with a family member.

Barbara Briley was "not responsive to questions" when authorities arrived, but Knott said the child was "in good shape and very talkative" and has since been reunited with a relative.

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. 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.

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.

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," he had said.

State troopers had searched around Ruther Glen area and along the Interstate 85 corridor from south of the Virginia capital city 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 vehicle 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.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.