Moms

Fort Worth girl back home with family; mom awaits extradition

An 11-year-old Fort Worth girl found on the edge of a New Mexico forest nearly a week after she went missing is back home with family members, police said Tuesday.

Jessica Smith returned to Fort Worth on Monday night. She had been released from a Taos, N.M., hospital after she and her mother were found Sunday afternoon near a national forest.

Her mother, Kimberly Smith, 42, is still in New Mexico awaiting extradition to Texas on charges of aggravated assault and endangering a child.

She was in the Santa Fe County jail on Monday, said Lt. Robert McDonald, a spokesman for the New Mexico state police.

The search for Jessica and her mother began Feb. 7 after officials at Parkwood Hill Intermediate School, where Jessica is a fifth-grader, told police that she had not shown up for classes.

Investigators learned that the two had been involved in a domestic violence situation the night before, and an Amber Alert was issued.

Authorities tracing Kimberly Smith's credit cards received hits in New Mexico, giving police a starting point, McDonald said. An Amber Alert was issued in New Mexico on Wednesday but later canceled.

About 1 p.m. Sunday, searchers from several agencies found the pair in an SUV about nine miles south of Tres Piedras, in north-central New Mexico near the Carson National Forest. They were described as hungry and exhausted and were taken to the hospital.

Officials said Jessica did not appear to be injured but released no further details.

"Our search never stopped," McDonald said. "Even after the Amber Alert was canceled, we kept looking because we thought that if she had been here earlier, she might come back."

Officials from the Fort Worth Police Department and the Tarrant County district attorney's office flew to New Mexico on Sunday evening.

Jessica lived with her mother and her siblings at a house in the 7300 block of Indiana Avenue in north Fort Worth.

Relatives told authorities that Kimberly Smith is mentally ill and has threatened suicide and harm to her children, police have said.

McDonald said Smith has given no indication that she is suicidal while she has been in state police custody.

Jessica's parents are in the midst of a contentious divorce. The family was ordered last October to undergo psychological evaluations, and the divorce case was referred to mediation, records say.

Tom Pappas, who is representing Jessica's father, Phillip Smith, said his client will wait to talk to his daughter until investigators complete their questioning.

Pappas said he expects both Jessica and Kimberly Smith to be back in Fort Worth within 48 hours. McDonald said he, too, expects the extradition process to go smoothly.

"Phillip is happy his daughter is safe and thankful for the diligence of those in law enforcement who continued to look for her," Pappas said.

Mitch Mitchell, 817-390-7752

Twitter: @stcrime

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