Ahrea’l Smith is a Virginia woman who disappeared after taking the garbage out at a Heathsville convenience store where she works.
Smith, 28, was working at the Claraville Little Sue Food Store when she took a trash bag outside and vanished with her car running, sheriff’s officials said.
There is now an arrest in the case.
“On January 15, 2022, Tyrone N. Samuel, age 50, of Heathsville, VA was arrested and charged with the abduction of Ahreal Smith. Ahreal remains missing at this time and we continue to investigate her whereabouts,” the sheriff wrote on January 16, 2022. “Please continue to send any information you may have or heard about Ahreal’s location to the Sheriff’s Office. (804) 580-5221. Thank you for your help.”
She was last seen wearing a black Nike hoodie, blue jeans, and brown UGG boots. Authorities do not have a location for a search to commence, Northumberland County Sheriff Johnny Beauchamp said in a video news conference.
Lydia Smith, Ahrea’l’s sister, said in the news conference: “If anybody knows anything, big, small, whatever, let us know. Call the police, tip hotline…it’s getting cold. My sister’s been gone for almost two days…. Somebody knows something. Please help us.”
So far the case has not gotten the media attention of, say, the Gabby Petito missing person’s case this summer. There has long been criticism of racial disparities in the media’s coverage of missing person’s cases, a phenomenon dubbed “missing white women syndrome” by The New Yorker.
Here’s what you need to know:
Smith Left Her Car Running Outside the Convenience Store Where She Worked as a Clerk, the Sheriff Says
The sheriff called Smith’s disappearance a “missing person’s case.”
“On Thursday January 13 at 4:46 a.m., the Sheriff’s office received a call that began the search for Ahrea’l Lashae Smith who went missing” from a convenience store, where she works as a clerk, he said in the news conference.
Authorities viewed store surveillance footage. On the night of January 12, they learned from that footage that Smith went outside to start her car at 9:05 p.m. She was preparing to lock up for the evening, Beauchamp said.
At 9:18 p.m., she went outside, exited the vehicle, went back into the store, turned the alarm on, and locked the door. She grabbed a bag of trash 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. Her car remained running until the day shift clerk arrived the next morning, according to the sheriff.
The driver of the vehicle she got into has been interviewed and is not a suspect at this time, he said.
There was a K9 unit that tracked her scent from the dumpsters for about 100 yards to a local road. The track ended a short distance away where she may have gotten into a vehicle, said Beauchamp.
“Our entire detective division is working on this case,” he said, including digital evidence, interviews, and tracking down leads. The FBI is assisting.
“We need the public’s help to get this solved,” the sheriff reiterated.
The Sheriff Asked the Community to ‘Please Let Law Enforcement Handle the Investigation’
“The community has been very supportive of Ahreal Smith’s family and some have been physically searching areas,” Beauchamp wrote in a statement on Facebook.
But the statement implored:
However, please realize the posting of information not vetted by law enforcement and showing up at individuals’ homes can hinder our investigation more than it helps. You may inadvertently tip off a person of interest before we can conduct interviews. Please let law enforcement handle the investigation and have faith that we are following every lead and we have many resources being used in this case. Any information you have, please call the Sheriff’s office at (804) 580-5221. Thank you for your continued support.
Smith’s cousin posted a picture of this car, but police have not commented on it.
“We need to find this car they have neon lights under it. Please help us find our cousin,” she wrote.
Smith’s Loved Ones Have Turned to Social Media to Get the Word Out
Smith’s loved ones have posted about her disappearance on Facebook. Wrote Eric Wilson:
To every FB friend, sandbox friend, friend friend, PLEASE LOOK REAL CLOSE at this young lady and know that this IS of the UTMOST IMPORTANCE to me, her sister, and an ENTIRE FAMILY.SHE IS MISSING, if you have not already seen/heard this please if you have seen or heard anything about her please reach out to me anyway you can.
Last seen wearing black Nike hoodie
Brown Ugg Boots
Your help and hearts are so very appreciated right now💟
On Facebook, Smith goes by the name Ahrey La’Shae.
The page says she went to Washington and Lee High Schools and has lived in Dallas, Texas. She is from Westmoreland, Virginia. The most recent visible post was from May 2021.
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