A high profile search for two local missing teenagers ended when their bodies were found on Friday in Loudoun County, Virginia.
Rachel Crites, 18, of Gaithersburg, and Rachel Smith, 16, of Potomac, had been missing since Jan. 19.
There were no visible signs of trauma on the two girls’ bodies, said Kraig Troxell, a spokesman for the Loudoun County Sheriff’s office. Investigators believe the two girls comitted suicide, Troxell said. An initial autopsy report on Monday, Feb. 5 indicated the girls likely died from carbon monoxide inhalation, but toxicology reports are needed to conclusively determine a cause and approximate date of death, Troxell said. Those reports will not be final for approximately two weeks.
The two girls disappeared on Jan. 19 after telling their parents that they were going to Georgetown to watch a movie.
A national search was initiated with police receiving tips from as far away as Texas, said Lucille Bauer, a spokesperson for Montgomery County Police. Police considered all tips they were given, Bauer said, but the investigation focused primarily on the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, including Baltimore and Hagerstown, Md., and Charlestown and Martinsburg, W.Va. Police grew concerned the longer the girls were missing, particularly as the girls made no significant withdrawals from their bank accounts in the days leading up to their disappearance.
Montgomery County Police were initially able to track the girls to Charles Town, WV, through their cell phones. Police were aided in their search by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and numerous law enforcement agencies and tracking databases, Bauer said. The girls were also featured on the television show "America's Most Wanted," on Jan. 20, Bauer said.
During the course of the investigation police were never able to make contact with the girls, Bauer said.
IN A PUBLIC statement released over the weekend, the parents of Rachel Smith expressed their gratitude for the support they had received.
“Many friends and family resources and various local and national organizations took an active role in disseminating information to the public on behalf of our daughter, Rachel Smith and her friend, Rachel Crites, as well as, taking an active part in the two week long search for the missing girls,” the family statement said. “Our thoughts and prayers are also with the Crites family.”
The two girls met at Thomas S. Wootton High School in Rockville, where Crites graduated last spring and where Smith was a junior this year. They had been friends for more than two years, Bauer said.
Police and the families of the two girls grew concerned about the girls’ state of mind after Troy Crites, Rachel Crites’ father found an entry in his daughter’s computer. In a television interview with WRC-TV (Channel 4) on Jan. 23, Crites read the entry aloud:
“Wherever I end up laying, whether buried or cremated, I want to stay with my true love, buried next to her. This is my choice. I'm sorry.”
The girls were found in Crites’ car in a clearing near a stand of power lines, Troxell said. The girls apparently had turned off Route 9 less than a half-mile from the West Virginia border onto a road called Shady Road, then off onto an unmarked gravel road that led to the clearing. They then appeared to drive uphill until the slope became to steep to proceed further, Troxell said.
The car was discovered Friday afternoon by people who were four-wheeling in the area. Their bodies were identified that night. Because of the recent cold weather in that area it will be difficult to determine exactly how long the girls were dead before they were found, Troxell said.