CANNON BEACH, Ore. – The mother of a toddler found dead in a Cannon Beach resort last Friday has been arrested, police announced late Sunday night.
A Coast Guard helicopter crew conducting an aerial search for suspect Jessica Smith spotted her SUV around 5:30 p.m. Sunday, along a logging road located just off Highway 26. The helicopter crew alerted officers on the ground, who quickly moved in to capture Smith, according to Cannon Beach Police Chief Jason Schermerhorn.
Smith was not armed, did not appear to be injured and was arrested without incident, Schermerhorn said. He added that she was being questioned by police and they believe she had been in "a heavily forested area" about 15 miles from Cannon Beach since Friday.
On Friday morning, a housekeeper at the Surfsand Resort discovered 2-year-old Isabella Smith dead and her 13-year-old sister Alana critically cut inside a hotel room, according to Schermerhorn. A short time later, police announced they were searching for Smith as a person of interest in the case.
Then, earlier on Sunday, an arrest warrant was issued for Smith, 40, of Goldendale, Wash., as a suspect in her own daughter's homicide. Police were conducting grid searches for Smith and her gold Chevy Suburban when the Coast Guard spotted her, Schermerhorn said.
"It's been very shocking for a peaceful community like Cannon Beach," Clatsop County District Attorney Josh Marquis said during Sunday's press conference.
He said an autopsy confirmed that Isabella's death was a homicide but investigators were still awaiting toxicology results to determine the exact cause of death.
Smith will be arraigned Monday on aggravated murder and attempted aggravated murder charges.
Marquis said Smith's 13-year-old daughter had been notified that her mother was found as she continues to recover at Doernbecher Children's Hospital. He said Alana has spoken to investigators but none of those details could be released at this time.
Jessica and her husband Gregory Smith were separated and in the midst of a divorce.
According to the Oregonian, Gregory's attorney said Jessica was ordered by the court to turn her children over to Gregory on Friday, the day Isabella was found dead and her sister critically hurt.
Gregory Smith and his family released the following statement Sunday night, after they learned that Jessica had been arrested:
"We are extremely grateful for the outpouring of sympathy and support from Cannon Beach and the surrounding communities. We would also like to thank all the law enforcement agencies for their tireless efforts. Special thanks is given to the caregivers and other support individuals for their empathy and skilled care of our whole family."
Anyone with additional information about Smith or her 2007 gold Chevy Suburban with Washington license plate APX3141 was asked to call Cannon Beach police at 503-436-2811.