CLAYTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Two teenaged brothers were arrested Tuesday and charged in the death of a 12-year-old girl. Investigators said the little girl was killed for her bicycle.
The body of Autumn Pasquale was found in a blue recycling bin in front of a house at around 10 p.m. Monday night, just blocks away from her own home in Clayton.
Her BMX bike and backpack were also found inside, CBS 2’s Christine Sloan reported.
Gloucester County Prosecutor Sean Dalton said the boys, ages 15 and 17, who live in the home were charged with first-degree murder. Their names were being withheld because they’re juveniles. Dalton also said their own mother turned them in after noticing something on their Facebook page.
Dalton said the cause of Pasquale’s death was blunt force trauma consistent with strangulation.
“Autumn Pasquale was lured to the juveniles’ home, it was for the purpose of obtaining parts for her BMX bike,” said Dalton.
Dalton said he will consider whether to try the teens as adults in the case, WCBS 880’s Peter Haskell reported.
WCBS 880’s Peter Haskell reports
Joyce Fisher lives on the street where Pasquale’s body was discovered Monday night, two days after she was reported missing. Fisher, like hundreds of others, took part in the search for the 12-year-old, who was last seen Saturday afternoon heading to a friend’s house on her bike.
“Just when they brought the bike out …That was devastating. I am scared. It’s devastating, unnerving. This is a nice quiet town,” Fisher said.
A 16-year-old told CBS 2’s Sloan he knows the three brothers who live in the house that was turned into a crime scene on Tuesday. He said the younger brother is obsessed with bikes.
“[He] takes bikes and takes them apart stuff like that,” Jodi Robinson said.
“They never stole my bike or anything out of my yard, but I heard they steal bikes,” Corey Hewes added.
As police cleared the crime scene, Pasquale’s cousin left behind a teddy bear – a reminder of this community’s grief.
“Gut wrenching. [To] see anybody do this to a child, it’s terrible,” Heather Magonagle said.
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Prosecutor Dalton addressed the media earlier Tuesday.
“On this sunny morning, we mourn the loss of a beautiful girl named Autumn,” Dalton said. “The search for Autumn is over, but the investigation to find out what happened to Autumn has begun.”
Dalton said Pasquale’s family was notified of the discovery Monday night. He said autopsy results are pending.
“Our hearts go out to the family and to all the residents of Clayton who stood together in support of this young girl,” Dalton said.
The girl’s uncle, Paul Spadofora, gathered with other relatives at the news conference to thank the community for its help in the search. The victim’s parents did not attend.
“There’s evil everywhere, even in the small town of Clayton,” Spadofora said.
Crime scene investigators arrived shortly before 9 a.m. at the house where the body was found. Authorities have not said where on the property the recycling bin was discovered.
Police also found a BMX bicycle matching one Pasquale was riding the day she disappeared. The bike was taken Tuesday from the property where her body was found.
Police barricaded the block and friends and neighbors came by to see. Some mothers said they were keeping their kids out of school for the day. Even before the body was found, students reported that Spirit Week had been canceled because of the sorrow.
Clayton Mayor Thomas Bianco walked to the scene, cried, hugged a police officer and gave a brief statement to the gathered reporters.
“You hear about it in other places but never think it would happen in our little town,” he said.
Authorities said Autumn, whose 13th birthday is Oct. 29, was last seen around 12:30 p.m. Saturday pedaling her white bicycle away from the Clayton home where she lives with her father, her two siblings, her father’s girlfriend and the girlfriend’s children.
Relatives said they believed Autumn was heading to see a friend, and they became worried only after she did not return by her 8 p.m. curfew. It wasn’t until about 9:30 p.m. that she was reported missing.
Dalton said 50 county and local law enforcement officers were on the case shortly after she was reported missing. More than 20 law enforcement agencies took part in the search.
A $10,000 reward was also offered for any information in the case.
Dalton said 75 interviews of family and friends were conducted. Investigators also interviewed registered sex offenders in the area and searched near their homes.
A Facebook page called “Find Autumn Pasquale” was set up Sunday. By Tuesday morning, a second Facebook page called “R.I.P Autumn Pasquale” had been created. Both pages were full with messages of condolences for the girl’s family.
Anyone with any information should call Clayton police at (856) 881-2300 or 2301 or the NJSP Missing Persons Unit at (800) 709-7090.
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