Within hours of a vigil held by a residents of a small New Jersey town praying for her safe return, the body of Autumn Pasquale was found in a recycling bin late Monday night, ending days of searching for the child whose 13th birthday is just a week away.
“The search for Autumn is over,” Gloucester County prosecutor Sean F. Dalton told a news conference on Tuesday. Pasquale was last seen on her bicycle around 12:30 p.m. on Saturday. Her disappearance touched off a search by hundreds of law enforcement personnel and volunteers in southwestern New Jersey.
The New Jersey disappearance is the latest to galvanize the nation. In Colorado, authorities are searching for the killer of Jessica Ridgeway, who body was found earlier this month.
According to a statement from the Gloucester County Prosecutor’s Office, Pasquale’s body was found in a recycling bin not far from her home. The bin was also near Borough Hall where thousands of people had gathered Monday evening for a candlelight vigil praying for Pasquale’s safe return.
“This is a very sad day for the Pasquale family,” Dalton said in a statement released Tuesday morning. “Our hearts go out to the family and to all the residents of Clayton who stood together in support of this young girl.”
“There’s evil everywhere, even in the small town of Clayton,” the girl’s uncle, Paul Spadofora, said at the earlier news conference.
Authorities said they are awaiting an autopsy from the medical examiner before calling the death a homicide.
There were no immediate suspects, officials said. Dalton, in a series of televised interviews Monday, said that investigators had interviewed all of the registered sex offenders in the area.
Pasquale was riding her white BMX bicycle when last seen on Saturday. The last communication was around 2:30 p.m. in the form of a text message. Officials would not comment on what the message said or to whom it was sent.
Pasquale did not return to her Clayton, N.J., home by her 8 p.m. curfew. Her father, Anthony, reported her missing by 9:30 p.m.
More than 20 police agencies were involved in the search. Hundreds of volunteers spent Sunday searching through the town, about 25 miles from Philadelphia.