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The 16-year-old Bedford County girl reported missing last Monday morning was found safe two days later in Kentucky.
She was located with the former Bedford County Sheriff’s Deputy recently charged with taking indecent liberties with a minor.
Special Agents from the Virginia State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) began looking for Audrey Marie McCombs' after her parents reported her missing Monday morning, Nov. 7. They had last seen her at her Bedford County residence at 9 p.m. Sunday night.
State Police believed that she was with Ernest William Grubbs, 47, also of Bedford County. Grubbs was the school resource officer at Liberty High School who was fired last month after he was charged with 12 counts of taking indecent liberties with a minor by a custodian. Grubbs was arrested on Oct. 19 and released on $5,000 bond. It is expected that bond will be revoked when he is served with the abduction charge in court here, possibly as early as Thursday.
The two were spotted in Kentucky at a gas station in Rush, Ky., just past the West Virginia line near Huntington.
“She is safe and he’s under arrest,” State Police BCI Captain George Austin said last Wednesday morning.
Austin said Grubbs was arrested around 9:40 a.m. by the Kentucky State Police, after he was spotted at the gas station on Route 60, just off Interstate 64.
An unmarked unit from the KSP got in behind them and made the stop without incident, Austin said. The VSP had taken out a felony abduction warrant on Grubbs.
Grubbs was expected back in Virginia Tuesday, after waiving an extradition hearing Monday. McCombs was returned to Virginia last week.
“We had a lot of help on this,” Austin stated, of locating Grubbs and McCombs.
He said that as early as last Monday morning the State Police were able to verify that Grubbs had been spotted and McCombs was in the vehicle with him.
Austin said Grubbs picked up McCombs at her residence shortly after midnight early Monday morning.
He said the State Police high tech crimes unit provided important information in locating Grubbs and the girl. Austin added that Special Agent Garland Snead worked tirelessly on the case, adding that a unit with the West Virginia State Police also played a key role.
“By a stroke of luck they (the Kentucky State Police) had two troopers close who were able to get on it,” Austin said of Grubbs and the girl being spotted.
That occurred at a convenience store where Grubbs used a bank debit card to get gas; he also had car trouble while there. The use of that card alerted officials to his location.
Austin said Grubbs was arrested without incident shortly after being located.
Agents with the VSP went to pick McCombs up in Kentucky.
Austin said they were able to verify Monday morning that Grubbs and McCombs were in Lewisburg, W.Va., at a motel there. After that, however, their location was unknown until Wednesday morning.
McCombs’ parents were notified as soon as she had been found safe.
“They were ecstatic, absolutely,” he said.
And so were the agents working on the case.
“We’re absolutely thrilled,” Austin said. “Whenever there’s a girl missing, anything can happen.”
He said Snead and other agents investigating the case worked non-stop on the case. “You couldn’t make them go home,” he said. “They’ve really been intensely working this.”
Snead has a deep knowledge of Bedford County, having served 17 of his 25 years with the state police here.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children Foundation also helped. But no Amber Alert was issued because the situation did not meet the requirements of that law because it wasn’t believed to be a forcible kidnapping case.
“We have no evidence that he forcibly took her,” Snead said, prior to Grubbs and the girl being found.
Four days before Grubbs was arrested on the indecent liberties charges last month, the father of a 16-year-old female student at Liberty High School got two text messages from the girl that were intended for Grubbs. The student later told investigators that she had sex with Grubbs at various locations.
Several search warrants were executed at Grubbs’ home and office. Numerous items were seized including hand-written notes, computer and cell phone equipment, and a bed comforter. The search warrants also noted that the girl’s mother had found notes expressing “love and intimate feelings” and a shirt 2XL in her daughter’s room.
Snead said that they had evidence that Grubbs and the girl stayed in contact after his arrest.
Grubbs, was held at the Carter County Detention Center in Grayson, Ky., after being captured in Kentucky.
“We are relieved and excited to see this young lady safely returned to her family and applaud the outstanding efforts of the State Patrol and supporting law enforcement agencies in this investigation,” stated Ryan Edwards, public relations coordinator with Bedford County Public Schools.
Edwards said parents have been concerned about this incident. “It’s a very unfortunate and tragic incident and who could blame a parent, going forward, for being concerned about their own children,” he said. “The deputies that are currently working in our schools are doing an outstanding job. We have faith in them now and in the future.”