KEANSBURG, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — A teenage neighbor of an 11-year-old New Jersey girl whose body was found near her home a day after she was reported missing has been arrested and charged with her murder, authorities announced Friday.
Andreas Erazo, 18, faces first-degree murder and weapons charges in the death of Abbiegail Smith of Keansburg, the Monmouth County prosecutor’s office said.
Erazo, who authorities said lived in an upstairs apartment, appeared in court Friday.
Prosecutors said Erazo stabbed Smith to death.
Smith’s family was in court for Erazo’s appearance, and her mother spoke out.
“You killed my daughter!” she said. “I hope you rot in jail. My one and only daughter. You look away from me. You need to rot in jail! Can’t even look at us!”
Erazo’s next court appearance will be Wednesday.
“This one is a difficult one,” said Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher Gramiccioni. “They all are, but especially when it involves a child. I spoke to the loved ones of Abbiegail Smith. Her family doesn’t wish to speak to anyone in the media at this point in time. They did ask me to convey to the public and the media that what they want out of this is justice, and it’s my job and my staff’s job to do the best at delivering that for them. It’s an incredibly tragic day that we lost a lovely 11-year-old girl, a fifth-grader who was beloved in her tight-knit community of Keansburg.
“This is one of the worst crimes I’ve seen, as alleged. Anytime there’s a child victim involved — and we’ve seen cases like this before at the prosecutor’s office — it’s truly heinous,” Gramiccioni added. “By all accounts from her family and people in that tight-knit community, she was a lovely, lovely little girl. She was in fifth grade. She went to Keansburg Elementary School. She was well loved by that family, I’ll tell you that, appropriately so.”
The prosecutor’s office announced Erazo’s arrest in a tweet earlier Friday.
Abbiegail was last seen in her home at the Hancock apartments around 7:45 p.m. Wednesday and was reported missing by her mother about an hour later, investigators said. Police found her body near the apartment building Thursday morning.
“In the back area of the apartment complex behind me, where she lives,” Gramiccioni said Thursday.
“We were really hopeful that we would find her,” Gramiccioni said. “It’s a punch in the gut for all of us in this community, especially with law enforcement.”
A memorial for Abbiegail grows on Main Street, where she was often seen playing or running around.
“She was a kind girl,” schoolmate Shaft Page told CBS2’s Meg Baker. “If she had something, she’d give it to you.”
The small community of Keansburg is disgusted by the crime.
“I’m devastated, and I know all the parents here are,” said Janelle Pierce, adding, “I’m shaken to my core.”
“It’s outrageous,” one man said. “It’s really outrageous. You would never think.”
Mourners came together for a second straight night, to remember Abbiegail.
“It’s just not fair to this little girl what happened to her at all,” Erica Araujio said.
“It’s hard. It’s in your backyard,” Nicole DeAngelo added.
There were prayers and moments of peace in the pouring rain on Friday night, as the pain resonated among those who gathered in the neighborhood to light a candle in Abbie’s memory.
While classmates were too distraught to talk about their friend, parents admitted they were no better at understanding the tragedy.
“This isn’t supposed to happen here,” DeAngelo said, “It just really shows, you never know who’s living around you.”
Autopsy results are not yet in. Police would not speak about a motive or if the suspect knew Abbiegail because it’s a part of their case, nor would they say if any sexual abuse occurred.
Prosecutors are calling the killing an isolated crime. Erazo has no prior criminal record.