Autumn Pasquale’s Family Backs Off Search Criticism
Two teenage brothers accused of killing a 12-year-old girl in southern New Jersey were to have their first court appearance as the girl's family backed away from accusations that authorities failed to act quickly enough once she was reported missing.
The brothers, aged 15 and 17, have been charged with murder and other crimes against Autumn Pasquale, who would have turned 13 on Oct. 29. Authorities say the younger boy lured her to their home by promising to trade bicycle parts.
The Gloucester County Prosecutor's Office hasn't identified the teens because they are juveniles, but relatives and neighbors have identified them as 17-year-old Dante Robinson and 15-year-old Justin Robinson.
Friday's court hearing was to determine whether the brothers should remain in a juvenile detention facility. Because it's in family court, the hearing is closed to the public and media, but some media organizations have filed a motion to have it opened.
Pasquale disappeared Saturday after leaving her house on her bike in the early afternoon. Her body was discovered in a recycling bin behind a vacant home next to where the brothers lived.
On Friday, the girl's parents seemed to back off earlier criticism of officials for the way the search was handled in the initial stages. Jaime Kaigh, a criminal defense lawyer, said he had been hired by the girl's parents and their spouses to help them deal with the case.
He said he does not believe that the Gloucester County Prosecutor's Office mishandled the search for Autumn, who was reported missing at 9:30 p.m. on Saturday, about nine hours after she was seen riding her bike away from her home.
That is in contrast with statements from the girl's mother, Jennifer Cornwell, and a great uncle, Paul Spadofora, who had served as a spokesman for the family. Spadafora had asked the state attorney general to investigate the official response.
Gloucester County Prosecutor Sean Dalton defended his office's response, saying officials "poured their hearts and souls" into the case. Up to 200 law enforcement officials and hundreds more volunteers joined the search.
The aftermath of the slaying brought the revelation that there may have been Facebook postings between Pasquale and Justin Robinson in the days before her death.
A Facebook account that appears to belong to Justin Robinson had a picture posted in August of a BMX bike. On Oct. 17, a post apparently from Autumn asked: "Is tht ur bike?"
The two exchanged a volley of messages in abbreviated language. He answered, "yeuop." She proclaimed, "Thts sexy!" He responded, "lol thx" and later added: "yess cme 2 my house."
The exchange is no longer available on Facebook, but someone took a screenshot and saved it to the photo-sharing site ImageShack.
Autumn disappeared three days later. The prosecutor's office has not commented on the Facebook postings.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)