A small southern NJ community is reeling over the death of a missing 12-year-old girl—and authorities' claims that 15- and 17-year-old brothers killed her for her BMX bike parts. The boys' friends said they were known for stealing bikes; one told the Star-Ledger, "They were always in trouble... They were into biking, BMX, that stuff. They were always looking for parts and that kind of stuff."
Autumn Pasquale was last seen on Saturday afternoon, riding on her white BMX bike in her hometown, Clayton, NJ. When she didn't return for her 8 p.m. curfew, her family contacted the police at 9:30 p.m. Hundreds of law enforcement officials and volunteers joined in the search for the girl, but on Monday night, her body was found in a recycling container a few blocks from her house. Yesterday police searched a home near the container and found her bicycle and other belongings.
Gloucester County Prosecutor Sean Dalton said that the teens were charged with first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder, disposing of a body, and tampering with evidence of theft. The 15-year-old was also charged with luring Autumn—apparently he promised to fix her bike. While the authorities did not disclose their names, the boys were identified as Justin Robinson, 15, and Donte Robinson, in various media reports.
Dalton had revealed that the boys' mother contacted the police, concerned about one of her sons' Facebook postings. She gave the police the keys to her house so they could investigate. When a white BMX bike, resembling Autumn's bike (recognizable from a handout), was removed, onlookers gasped. One said, "Just when they brought the bike out …That was devastating. I am scared. It’s devastating, unnerving. This is a nice quiet town."
Neighbors say they saw the 15-year-old at a candlelight vigil on Monday night, before Autumn's body was found. One told NBC Phildelphia, "He was standing right behind me and laughing, smirking about everything while people were sitting there crying."
Further, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer, on Sunday night, "At 8:16 p.m., a 15-year-old Clayton boy logged onto Facebook and, along with nearly 17,000 other people across the country, clicked 'Like' on the FIND AUTUMN PASQUALE page. But authorities say Justin Robinson knew exactly where Pasquale was because he allegedly lured her to his home on East Clayton Avenue on Saturday afternoon and then beat and strangled the seventh-grader with the help of his brother." And the boy apparently also commented on Autumn's brother's Facebook status noting that bloodhounds were involved in the search—the suspect wrote, "that's good."
The boys' estranged father, Alonzo Robinson, said he knew his sons were previously in trouble for stealing bikes or bike parts, "I think someone wanted the girl’s bicycle. Maybe she wanted her bike and resisted, and one of them snatched her off a bike."
Authorities are still investigating the murder. The boys, who turned themselves in to the police yesterday, may be tried as adults.