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Police believe missing girl might be with accused former sheriff's deputy

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By John Barnhart

Special Agents from the Virginia State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) are looking for a missing 16-year-old Bedford County girl. It's believed she might be with the former Bedford County Sheriff's Deputy recently charged with taking indecent liberties with a minor.

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According to State Police, Audrey Marie McCombs' parents reported her missing Monday morning. They had last seen her at her Bedford County residence at 9 p.m. Sunday night.

State Police believe that she is with Earnest 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 a $5,000 bond.

"We have information that he left the state," said Garland Snead, the state police special investigator heading up the investigation.

Nevertheless, State Police are not ruling anything out at this point.

"I have several agents in Bedford County," said Captain George Austin of the BCI. Snead is one of those. Snead has a deep knowledge of Bedford County, having served 17 of his 25 years with the state police here.

Snead said that the Missing Children Foundation is helping them. No Amber Alert has been issued, however. Snead said that the situation does not meet the requirements of that law because it's not believed to be a forcible kidnapping case.

"We have no evidence that he forcibly took her," Snead said.

If McCombs is with Grubbs, it would still be considered a kidnapping. Snead said that, under the law, she couldn't voluntarily leave because of her age.

State Police believe that the two may be in a Gray 2004 Jeep Wrangler, with Virginia license plate number XBK-8176. McCombs is described as a white female, 5 feet, 7 inches tall and weighing 130 pounds. She has brown hair and brown eyes. Grubbs is a 5 foot, 9 inch tall white male with brown hair and brown eyes. Anybody with information about them is urged to call the Virginia State Police at 1-800-542-5959

The Bedford County Sheriff's Office called in the state police as soon as they first received allegations of criminal wrongdoing on Grubbs' part, according to Major Ricky Gardner of the Sheriff's Office. Gardner said that it's standard procedure for a law enforcement agency to call in the state police on a criminal investigation on one of its own employees.

"We assist them in any way we can," Gardner said.

Four days before Grubbs was arrested, 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.

A variety of 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 have evidence that Grubbs and the girl stayed in contact after his arrest.

According to a report from Landmark News Service, the family is extremely distraught. “The girl just turned 16 last month and they're cooperating fully with us,” State Police Captain George Austin said. “I've got a large crew of men working on this and we're trying to locate her working with other agencies. We're just simply busting our tails, to put it bluntly.”