By Steve Beck, Robin Rieger, David Madden
CLAYTON, N.J. (CBS) -– A day after two teenage brothers were charged in their daughter’s death, the parents of Autumn Pasquale spoke to Eyewitness News today and tried to put their tragic loss into words.
“I just can’t believe it’s happening, and I would have never thought this would happen to us. She’s a good girl,” Autumn’s father, Tony Pasquale, said as he struggled to hold back tears.
As she held the teddy bear that her daughter Autumn grew up with and will be buried with, Jenn Cornwell had a message for fellow parents.
“Hug them a little bit harder. Know where they’re going. Don’t let them out that door without knowing where they’re going and who they’re talking to. Get into their lives a little bit closer than you already are,” Autumn’s mother said.
Two teenager neighbors were arrested Tuesday and charged in the death of Autumn. Autumn went missing Saturday afternoon until her body was found in recycling bin late Monday evening.
Two brothers -– ages 15 and 17 -– have been charged with first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder, tampering with evidence, theft, disposing of a body. The 15-year-old is also charged with one count of luring.
It was not immediately determined whether they would be charged as adults.
Gloucester County prosecutor Sean Dalton said Autumn was lured to the home of the brothers where the crime was allegedly committed for the purpose of obtaining parts from her BMX bike.
Dalton said the boys’ mother contacted police about postings on her son’s Facebook page, and that call helped police led them to the suspects.
“I’m thankful that she did the right thing,” Jenn Cornwell said.
Autumn was last seen at 12:30pm Saturday, and was reported missing later that night after failing to return home by her 8pm curfew. She had been the subject of an in-depth search in and around the quiet town of Clayton.
Autumn’s parents plan to request an official state investigation to closely examine how the search for their daughter was handled.
“I just want to know what the proper protocols are. If we can have somebody come in and make sure that everything was done the way it should have been done, because we don’t want this to happen again to anyone, anyone’s child. No one deserves this, no one,” Jenn Cornwell said.
Autumn’s father feels the initial search was delayed.
“I felt like we were interviewed left and right, instead of looking for my daughter. I just want a faster response,” Tony Pasqaule said.
Jenn Cornwell said her daughter’s disappearance didn’t qualify for the Amber Alert notification. She feels as if the search for her daughter could have started sooner had an Amber Alert notification been issued.
“It just seemed like it took a little bit too long to get out there and pound the pavement and look for our little girl … She’s 12-years-old and nobody was out there looking.”
Her parents are hoping to change the protocols in the search for missing children so this situation does not happen to someone else.
“We don’t want this to happen to any other child, ever. And we’re going to try to make some changes,” Jenn Cornwell said.
Jenn Cornwell mentioned about the possibility of creating an “Autumn’s Law,” where an alert would be issued in the event of any missing child.
In response to the statement from Autumn’s parents regarding the search, the Gloucester County Prosecutor’s Office’s released the following statement:
“The Gloucester County Prosecutor’s Office’s investigative units poured their hearts and souls into this investigation and worked around the clock to find Autumn. I’m very proud of what they did under such difficult circumstances. This is a time to start the healing process and let the justice system move forward with this case.”
KYW’s David Madden reports that as the tiny community of Clayton comes to grips with the murder of the 12-year-old and the fact that a pair of teenaged neighbors are charged with her murder, emotions are still quite raw in the town of 8,000 people.
It’s particularly difficult at Clayton Middle School, where Autumn’s classmates and teachers are getting time to process the shocking events.
“What we’re doing is working together with each other and supporting each other, and, most importantly, trying to support our students and give them the love and attention that they need,” says school district superintendent David Lindenmuth.
Counselors from both inside and outside the district are helping people cope. Among the questions still unanswered is whether the suspects will be tried as adults. Unless and until the Gloucester County prosecutor decides to do so, CBS Philly is withholding their names.
The funeral arrangements have been announced for Autumn Pasquale.
Her viewing is Saturday from 8 a.m. until 1 p.m. at the Mary, Mother Of Mercy Parish Our Lady Of Lourdes Church in Glassboro. The funeral follows at 2 p.m. at the church.
A memorial fund has been created for Autumn’s family. Donations can be made to the Autumn Pasquale Memorial Fund, c/o Fulton Bank, 35 North Delsea Drive, Clayton, New Jersey.