New Mexico trooper describes finding Kimberly and Jessica Smith



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Posted on February 13, 2012 at 9:01 PM

Updated Tuesday, Feb 14 at 12:29 AM

ESPANOLA, N.M. - Images show the remote, snow-covered terrain near Taos, New Mexico, where Kimberly and 11-year-old Jessica Smith were found Sunday afternoon.

"From the road, you couldn't see it, because it's around a covered area," said trooper Mark Sandoval.

Sandoval was among the team of officers, including the FBI, who spent days searching for the Fort Worth woman and her daughter. Sandoval found the pair in their car, away from the road.

When Kimberly Smith appeared, Sandoval said it was clear she needed food and water.

"Right when I got to her, she almost collapsed," Sandoval said. "I had to hold her up."

Crying, she told the officer they hadn't eaten in days.

Other images show why it may have been so hard to pinpoint the mother and daughter, and the conditions they faced. The pictures include clumps of fresh snow melting in water bottles. Sandoval believes Kimberly was crouched down collecting more snow when they were found.

"That's a big indicator that they were in survival mode," Sandoval said.

Police believe they pair had been without food since at least Friday.

They were wearing clothing that was no match for the winter weather that blew through the area - Kimberly was wearing green sweat pants, a t-shirt and tennis shoes, and Jessica was in sweat pants, as well, with flip-flops.

Once in his police car, he said Kimberly seemed out of it.

"As soon as I put her in the seat, she leaned over," Sandoval said. "She never said anything. It was almost like she was asleep."

Jessica was more lively.

"Jessica was talking to me the whole time," the officer said. "They never spoke to each other at all."

Authorities brought the car to a state police office in Espanola, New Mexico.

It's sealed off so investigators can go through it, but we can see some of what's inside. Medication, a cell phone and a pair of gloves are visible. As is a hand-written note, seeming to be from Jessica.

Who is now safe.

"You want to make sure you find a child," Sandoval said. "In my mind, I'm glad I found a warm place for her to sleep that night."

Sandoval recalled the moment he saw Jessica and the search ended.

"It was very obvious in her face that, When she saw a figure of authority, it was kind of a relief for her," Sandoval said. "Kind of like, 'I know I am going to be okay now.'"