Virginia police have arrested a 50-year-old man in connection with the suspicious disappearance of a 28-year-old woman who disappeared minutes after her shift ended last week.
Ahreal Smith was last seen on surveillance video taken at the Claraville Little Sue store in Heathsville on January 12. She grabbed a bag of trash and headed for the dumpster after closing the store. Authorities are now describing his absence as a “kidnapping” and have charged local resident Tyrone Samuel.
“We are still investigating whether there was a prior connection and whether there are any other potential suspects,” Northumberland County Sheriff Johnny Beauchamp told Fox News Digital on Monday.
Her car was driving in the parking lot out front – where a colleague found it still idling a day later, with Smith nowhere to be found.
VIRGINIA WOMAN DISAPPEARS UNDER SUSPICIOUS CIRCUMSTANCES WHILE TAKING OUT GARBAGE AFTER WORK
Police K-9s tracked her scent about 50 yards from the store’s dumpsters, to the side of a road where investigators believe she may have gotten into a vehicle.
On Sunday, the Northumberland County Sheriff’s Office announced that it had arrested Samuel a day early.
The Heathsville resident “has been arrested and charged with the kidnapping of Ahreal Smith,” the sheriff said in a statement.
Smith’s whereabouts remain unknown and anyone with information is asked to call the sheriff’s office at (804) 580-5221.
She is 5 feet 8 inches tall and weighs around 170 pounds. She wears a wig and has numerous tattoos, including a rose on her right thigh, according to authorities. She was last seen wearing a black Nike hoodie, jeans and a pair of Uggs.
Smith’s employer, another local business, a charity called Youth Empowerment Strategies for Success, and his family pooled a $9,400 reward for information that leads to his location.
The sheriff told Fox News Digital last week that the FBI is involved in the investigation and has possession of the security video.
Video shows Smith exiting to start her car around 9:05 a.m. and then driving back inside, according to the sheriff’s office.
At 9:18 a.m., she briefly got into another car that was in the parking lot. Police said they questioned the driver and do not consider him a suspect.
After that, Smith returned to the store, locked it, and turned on the alarm.
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The video then showed Smith picking up a trash bag and stepping out of the camera’s view. She has not been seen since. A colleague found her car empty and still idling in the parking lot the next morning.
A State Police K-9 unit tracked Smith’s scent for approximately 50 yards, from the dumpsters to Walnut Point Road.
The sheriff’s office also released another statement calling for calm in an attempt to deter vigilantism after saying authorities had received a number of calls about threats against “persons and property related to the Ahreal Smith investigation. “.
“We ask the public to please understand that each of these calls for service diverts necessary resources from the investigation,” the sheriff’s office said. “Our office will release verified and accurate information to the extent possible. Any incidents of threats of violence or actual violence will be investigated and prosecuted.”
Fox News’ Sarah Rumpf contributed to this report.