CLAYTON, N.J. -- Two teenage brothers were charged yesterday with murdering a 12-year-old girl who had been missing since the weekend and was the subject of a frantic search by her small hometown until her body was found stuffed in a home recycling bin.
The boys' mother played a part in cracking the case involving Autumn Pasquale, Gloucester County prosecutor Sean Dalton said. She came forward with information about a posting on a son's Facebook account, leading police to the boys, he said.
The girl appeared to have been strangled, he said. She had been riding her bicycle and was lured to the boys' house, where belongings including the bike were found. There were no signs of sexual assault, Dalton said.
The boys' names were not disclosed because they are juveniles, but Dalton said his office is considering trying for a transfer to adult court. The boys, 17 and 15, will have public defenders.
Both were charged with counts including first-degree murder, body disposal and tampering with evidence. The 15-year-old was charged with luring.
Three teenage brothers live at the home where the body was found, said Na'eem Williams and Jodie Robinson, both 16. Corey Hewes, 19, said he was among those who traded BMX bike parts with one of the teens.
Teens frequently hung out at the house and had parties, some neighbors said.
Autumn's body was found around 10 p.m. Monday in the bin just blocks from her house and from Borough Hall, where thousands of people gathered earlier in the evening for a tearful candlelight vigil to pray for her safe return.
Dalton called Clayton, south of Philadelphia, a safe community but said parents should continue to keep close watch on their children.
The girl's great-uncle, Paul Spadofora, thanked the community for its help in the search. Her 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. in the neighborhood where the body was found. Tuesday was trash collection day, and many residents had dragged their trash cans and recycling bins to the curb the night before.
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.
Autumn was last seen around 12:30 p.m. Saturday pedaling her bike away from the home where she lives with her father, her two siblings, her father's girlfriend and the girlfriend's children, authorities said. Relatives said they believed she was heading to see a friend, and they became worried only after she did not return by her 8 p.m. curfew.