(CBS/AP) A Virginia judge has ordered the case of Jeffrey Scott Easley, who allegedly kidnapped his slain girlfriend's 12-year-old daughter in December, to be heard by a grand jury.
Easley is accused of kidnapping 12-year-old Brittany Mae Smith on Dec. 6, 2010, the same day Brittany's mother, Tina Smith, was found dead in her southwestern Virginia home.
One week after a nationwide Amber Alert, a woman spotted Easley and Brittany panhandling outside a supermarket in San Francisco, Calif. Police say they had been camping nearby.
Roanoke County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Judge Philip Trompeter found probable cause to certify the abduction charge against 32-year-old Easley to the grand jury.
Authorities have been tight lipped about Tina Smith's murder, but at Tuesday's hearing, Commonwealth's Attorney Randy Leach had investigator Dale Clark describe finding the 41-year-old mother's body in a second floor bedroom.
Clark said her hands were swollen, there were red stains around her face and that she was bound with red, white and black cords.
Authorities have not said how she died, reports CBS affiliate WDBJ. Police say Easley is a suspect in the murder, but so far no charges have been filed in the case.
According to CNN, Easley wrote a letter rife with errors to The Roanoke Times claiming the girl willingly went with him across the country.
"I did not kidnapp her or take her aginest her will," Easley wrote in the letter obtained by CNN. "She made me promise not to leave her."
Brittany's father, Ben Smith, testified Tuesday that he had joint custody of Brittany and had not given Easley permission to take her anywhere.
The Roanoke Times reports that the grand jury is scheduled to meet April 1.