The 16-year-old half-brother of the Menifee boy who went missing last weekend has been charged with murder, authorities said.
The boy was arrested Wednesday after authorities found the remains of Terry Smith Jr., 11, in a shallow grave near the family’s home.
Riverside County prosecutors said they will ask a juvenile court judge to determine whether the teen should be tried as an adult.
Some family members Thursday expressed disbelief at the developing news.
“The boys didn’t even disagree," said Paula Smith, Terry's aunt. "Other than the normal ‘leave me alone,’ the normal kid stuff, there was no violence ever,” she said. “It wasn’t allowed over there, so I don’t understand this at all."
Terry Smith Sr., a retired truck driver who lives in West Virginia, said his ex-wife called him Sunday to ask if he was in California. He said he had been waiting for her to call and tell him when his son -- nicknamed "Juju" -- had finished school for the summer, so he could send a plane ticket for him to come to West Virginia.
Instead, she told him their son was missing.
More than 1,000 people, including people representing more than 20 California organizations, helped search for the lost 11-year-old boy in the following days.
His body was found early Wednesday morning by a female volunteer whose children spotted the human remains.
The 16-year-old suspect had just completed his sophomore year at Paloma Valley High School, said Jonathan Greenberg, superintendent of the Perris Union High School District.
In his Facebook profile picture, the boy stares contemplatively from beneath dark brown-black hair that sweeps across his forehead and nearly touches his shoulders. Two black studs pierce the skin just beneath either side of his lower lip, and a round, silver nose-ring hangs from his nose.
In the days leading up to his arrest, he posted several status updates on Facebook. One mentions insomnia and another being “Single officially.”
Friends commented online about whether he may be guilty, and whether his mom was involved.
One wrote, “i never heard anything bad about him only good. and i highly doubt anyone would do this to their own sibling.”
Cierra Hess, who lives in Moreno Valley, told The Times she first met the boy through Facebook and that they soon began Skyping every night.
On the murder accusations, she said, he “wouldn’t have ever done that."
Hess, 16, described him as a “caring, loving compassionate” person. According to Hess, he was upset about his brother being missing.