CLAYTON, N.J. (CBS) — Gloucester County prosecutor Sean Dalton announced the arrest of two teenage brothers Tuesday in connection with the death of 12-year-old Autumn Pasquale.
Dalton said Autumn was lured to the home of the 15 and 17-year-old brothers where the crime was allegedly committed for the purpose of obtaining parts from her BMX bike.
Dalton said the juveniles’ mom contacted police about postings on her son’s Facebook page and that call helped police lead them to the suspects.
The mother did not speak to reporters. Friends say she is devastated.
“She says that she is really hurt for the family. She said her heart goes out to the family more than her boys right now,” said one woman, who did not wish to be identified.
“A preliminary cause of death is blunt force trauma consistent with strangulation,” said Dalton, who also said there are no signs of sexual assault.
The suspects have been charged with first degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder, tampering with evidence, theft, disposing of a body and the 15-year-old is also charged with one count of luring. Dalton said they are considering waiving the juveniles to adult court.
“Today we mourn the loss of a young girl … whose life was cut short before it really began. Our thoughts and prayers go out to her parents, her family. It is my hope that the arrests today provide a measure of closure, that the individuals responsible for their daughter’s death will be held responsible,” said Dalton.
Pasquale’s body was found late Monday evening in a recycling bin on a property near the corner of Vine Street and Clayton Avenue in Clayton, New Jersey. The Odyssey BMX bicycle she was last seen riding, was located hours later at the suspect’s home near where her body was discovered.
Autumn was last seen at 12:30 p.m. Saturday, reported missing later that night after failing to return home by her 8 p.m. curfew, and had been the subject of an in-depth search in and around the quiet town of Clayton.
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Hundreds of volunteers searched for Autumn for over two days, but their worst fears had been realized.
“Our hearts go out to the family and to all the residents of Clayton who stood together in support of this little girl,” Dalton said.
The family of Autumn Pasquale, who would have turned 13 a week from Monday, thanked the community for the thousands of man-hours that went into the search for their beloved 12-year-old, saying they wish the result had been different, but they’re thankful they have closure.
Grief counselors will be on hand at Autumn’s school throughout the week to assist grieving classmates and staff, and a prayer service and vigil was held Tuesday night at the First Baptist Church on Delsea Drive.
Officials stressed Gloucester County and the borough of Clayton are safe communities and urged parents to do what they’ve always done.
“You’re going to hold your children close and take the necessary steps to protect your children like you’ve always had,” said Dalton.