NEW YORK -- Two New Jersey brothers, ages 15 and 17, were arrested and charged with first-degree murder Tuesday in the death of a 12-year-old neighbor, Autumn Pasquale, who vanished while riding her bicycle and whose body was found in a recycling bin outside the suspects’ home.
Gloucester County prosecutor Sean F. Dalton told a news conference that the boys were taken into custody in Clayton, a city of 8,100 people about 25 miles from Philadelphia, after their mother contacted law enforcement regarding postings on one of their Facebook pages. He did not name the youths or give additional details of the postings.
Dalton said both brothers were charged with first-degree murder; conspiracy; tampering with evidence; disposal of the body; and theft. The 15-year-old was also charged with luring. “Our investigation shows she was lured to the juveniles’ house where this crime was committed,” Dalton said.
Officials said it was too early to say if the pair, who turned themselves in Tuesday along with their attorneys, would be charged as adults. Dalton said it appeared they had persuaded Autumn to enter the home so they could steal her white BMX bicycle.
Autumn was reported missing Saturday evening after she failed to return home by her 8 p.m. curfew. Hundreds of law enforcement personnel and volunteers in southwestern New Jersey joined the search, which ended late Monday night when her body was found in a blue, plastic recycling container just a few blocks from her home.
The bin would have been taken away later, because Tuesday is trash collection day in the area, if someone had not looked inside. Autumn’s bicycle was found inside the house near the spot where she was found dead. As the bike was brought out from the white, stucco house, a collective “oh no” arose from a crowd of onlookers. Police also recovered a backpack believed to be Autumn’s from the home.
Dalton said Autumn was strangled and suffered blunt-force injuries.
According to the Associated Press, three teenage brothers live in the home where the bicycle was discovered and hold frequent parties there. Before the discovery of the body, hundreds of people gathered for a vigil Monday night to hope for the return of the girl, who would have turned 13 on Oct. 29.