The 71-year-old New Jersey woman who vanished on Christmas Eve while driving to Anson County with a 5-year-old great-granddaughter remained in serious condition at a Virginia hospital Thursday morning, according to media reports.
Barbara Briley and her granddaughter, La’Myra Briley, were found alive shortly before 5 p.m. Wednesday in Virginia, but the mystery grows surrounding what happened during their four-day road trip from New Jersey to Morven in Anson County.
The search included law enforcement in multiple states and the FBI. But Briley and the child were ultimately found by accident 230 miles from their intended destination: A landowner stumbled on their car in a wooded area in Dinwiddie County, Virginia.
It was seven miles from Interstate 85. The landowner had seen news reports, realized who the Brileys were and called 911, Maj. William Knott of the Dinwiddie Sheriff’s Office told the Richmond Times Dispatch.
“This person probably saved them,” Knott was quoted as saying.
Officials said they don’t suspect foul play in their disappearance.
Barbara Briley was unconscious sitting near a tree the time she was found, it was reported. Her grandchild was alert and appeared unharmed. Barbara Briley regained consciousness and was flown to VCU Medical Center by Med-Flight helicopter for treatment, it was reported. La’Myra received a medical evaluation at the scene and was released to a family member.
The Dinwiddie County Sheriff’s Office and Virginia State Police were dispatched to the scene after the property owner called authorities. The silver Toyota Rav4 driven by Briley was parked about 1.5 miles off the main road and 45 feet off a dirt path.
Police believe Briley followed the dirt road about three-tenths of a mile before pulling off into the woods. At one point, she drove over a small tree, attempted to back up and the Rav4 got stuck in a remote area of the property.
Investigators say it appears the two were there for several days, but were sustained by their snacks. Virginia State Police told media that they found juice boxes, apples and other food items near the scene.
Prior to the Brileys having been found Wednesday evening, a niece of Barbara Briley’s told the Richmond Times-Dispatch that her aunt used to work as a driver for New Jersey Transit and had made the nine-hour trip to North Carolina numerous times.
“Driving is not an issue when it comes to my Aunt Barbara,” said Ginger Bittle was quoted as saying.
Family and law enforcement had been searching for the Brileys since Christmas Eve. Before they were found, they were last seen around 5:30 p.m. at an Exxon station in Ruther Glen, Va., an unincorporated community near Interstate 95.
Jennifer Lindsey, Barbara Briley’s niece who lives in Morven, said her aunt was on the phone with family members as late as 8 p.m. Saturday. But no one could reach her by 10 p.m., she said.
The family put up fliers along the route Briley would have traveled, and they searched the area.
Since learning of the Brileys’ disappearance, the Caroline County Sheriff’s Office had obtained surveillance footage from the gas station, talked to a witness and conducted a search of the area.
“We went from business to business alongside the interstate,” Nutter said. “That was on Christmas Day.”
The surveillance video, which the department released Wednesday, showed Barbara Briley stopping and asking for help with her GPS.
Information from the News & Observer was used in this report.