Autumn Pasquale’s Alleged Killers Charged, Hundreds Attend Vigil [VIDEO/AUDIO/POLL]
The South Jersey town of Clayton, Gloucester County is mourning the death of 12-year-old Autumn Pasquale.
Authorities say two teenage boys, 15 and 17 lured the girl into their house to sell bike parts for her BMX and then killed her.
The girl’s disappearance Saturday had sparked a frantic search by residents until a tip from the boys’ mother led police to her body, stuffed into a home recycling bin.
The boys, identified to by neighbors to Townsquare Media as 15 year-old Justin Robinson and 17 year-old Dante Robinson were charged with murdering Autumn Pasquale a little more than a week before what would have been her 13th birthday.
She appeared to have been strangled, Gloucester County prosecutor Sean Dalton said at a late-day news conference.
“This is a very sad day for the Pasquale family. Our hearts go out to the family and to all the residents of Clayton who stood together in support of this young girl,” Dalton told reporters.
The boys’ mother had come forward with information about a posting on a son’s Facebook account, Dalton said. He wouldn’t say what was on the website or discuss a possible motive for the killing, but said there was no sign of sexual assault.
Autumn Pasquale was lured to the house, where they apparently lived with their mother and stepfather, for the purpose of getting parts for her treasured BMX bike, which she rode frequently and talked about on her Facebook pages.
Both brothers were charged with counts including first-degree murder, body disposal and tampering with evidence. The 15-year-old was also charged with luring.
Members of the town had spent long hours searching for Autumn Pasquale. The girl’s great-uncle, Paul Spadofora, thanked the community for its help in the search. The victim’s parents did not attend the vigil.
There’s evil everywhere, even in the small town of Clayton,’ Spadofora said.
Neighbors Reaction to Autumn Pasquale Death
The teens were well known in the small, rural community. Some said they had a history of theft and were known for throwing parties.
“They have stolen a lot of bikes in town, in fact a few of my friends had bikes stolen from them,” said Kelly Huster, a neighbor of the boys.
“They roamed the streets at all hours, they stole things, they got in a lot of trouble” said another woman, only identified as Nicole.
“I didn’t know them personally, but it just looked like there was odd stuff going on in that house,” said another man.
But others were shocked to learn of the brothers’ arrests.
“We used to play, go down to the park, I never thought they would do something like this,” said one girl.
“They liked to joke around a lot but they never got arrested, they were never in trouble, they were good kids,” said another neighbor.
Prayer Service for Autumn Pasquale Draws Hundreds
It was standing room only inside and outside a Clayton church where friends, family and members of the community in South Jersey came to mourn the loss of Autumn Pasquale.
“Clayton is a small town and a small town is like a big family,” Pastor Mike Jones told the crowd.
Residents held hands, lit candles and hugged during the nearly hour long service.
“She loved to laugh, play with her friends, she was a good kid” said Carol, a mom who knew the family. “My daughter was a cheerleader with her…its just such a shock, there are no words.”
Tom, a local fireman in town for more than fifty years, says his world is shattered by the murder.
“We know the family inside and out and when something happens like this you don’t know what to do, what to say, I’ve never seen anything like this as long as I’ve lived here…it’s absolutely unbelievable.”
Tara brought her five year-old daughter to the prayer service who carried a small teddy bear to leave at a makeshift memorial outside the church.
“She wants to leave this for Autumn…she was a truly sweet girl and she will be missed by many.”
(The Associated Press contributed to this report)