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Police search Tri-Cities for missing woman, child after cellphone detected

Posted at 2:51 PM, Dec 27, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-27 23:29:59-05

RUTHER GLEN, Va. -- A new clue may help authorities in their search for a 71-year old woman and her 5-year-old great-granddaughter, who vanished while driving through Virginia on Christmas Eve.

Barbara Briley and her great-granddaughter LaMyra Briley were driving from New Jersey to the town of Morven in Anson County, North Carolina, a route Barbara’s nieces said she has driven for almost 35 years.

Now, police believe the missing woman may have been in the Tri-Cities area in the early hours of Dec. 27, 2016.

Det. Mike Robinson, in Hamilton Township, New Jersey, told CBS 6 that the woman’s phone "pinged" from a Sprint cellphone tower South of Petersburg.

The Briley family shared this image of Barbara Briley and her great granddaughter La Myer Briley.

The Briley family shared this image of Barbara Briley and her great granddaughter La Myer Briley.

The detective also said that yesterday they received a hotline tip from someone who saw the car on Interstate-95 in the Richmond area.

The Dinwiddie County Sheriff’s Office says they received information that the two may have been in the area for a couple of days.

According to multiple police sources, a signal was picked up from Barbara Briley's cell phone around 1:30 Sunday morning at a tower near I-85 and route one in Dinwiddie.

Sources say the cell phone was turned off and was not turned back on.

Investigators said they have been combing the area between the Dinwiddie airport and the City of Petersburg after the cellphone was detected in the area.

Multiple law enforcement sources tell CBS 6 the search for Barbara and LaMyra has extended to the Virginia North Carolina line.

Those sources say tips after the evening news led investigators to Warren County, near the Virginia/North Carolina border off of Interstate 85.

Search for missing woman, great-granddaughter

The Briley family said they have no family in the Richmond area. They are currently trying to hire a private investigator to help in the search.

Relatives said Barbara first contacted them at 5:30 p.m. on Christmas Eve, when she stopped at an Exxon on Rogers Clark Boulevard in Ruther Glen.

A clerk, Joanna Strange, said that she spoke with Barbara, who asked for the address of the Exxon. She needed help using the map on her phone, Strange said. Tuesday evening the Caroline County Sheriff's Office released video of Barbara entering and exiting the store.

The Exxon clerk said that Barbara was in the store around 30 minutes and that the child was out in the car.

But after seeking someone’s help, Barbara still didn’t get too far. According to her son and daughter, she was still stuck in traffic, around 8 p.m., in Caroline County.

She should have arrived by 11 p.m., the family said. When they tried to contact her at 10 p.m., they said the phone went straight to voicemail. Now the phone company said they can’t track the phone because it is either off or powered down.

The family said they have now driven just about every possible route from the Charlotte area to New Jersey, looking for signs of Barbara and LaMyra. They have asked travelers to contact authorities with any information they can recall from that night if they saw a struggle or a disabled vehicle.

Barbara is a retired transit driver, her family said.

This is the exact make car that Barbara Briley was last seen driving.

This is the exact make car that Barbara Briley was last seen driving.

“She’s been driving for years, that was her job, she knows what she should’ve done if she was tired, this is just not normal for us to not hear from her,” her family said.

She has no history of medical issues either.

Barbara was driving a silver Toyota Rav 4 with New Jersey tag C80-ELS.

Barbara is African-American, 5 feet, 5 inches tall and weighs 215 pounds.

LaMyra, the 5-year-old, was last seen wearing gray sweat pants and a gray camouflage sweat hoodie.

This is a developing story. Reporter Sandra Jones will have an update on the 6 p.m. news.