Reported and written by David Matthau and Sergio Bichao

FREEHOLD BOROUGH — The 18-year-old Keansburg man accused of killing his 11-year-old neighbor admitted to police that he stabbed her to death.

Andreas Erazo's confession to the grisly slaying this month was revealed by prosecutors during a detention hearing Wednesday in Superior Court, where a judge ordered Erazo to be locked up without bail for the duration of the case.

During the hearing, prosecutors also revealed that the body of AbbieGail "Abbie" Smith was found wrapped up on the roof of a shed just outside the window of Erazo's apartment.

Most of Abbie's clothes had been removed and she was tied with a computer cord under the blanket, prosecutors said Wednesday. Police said they found blood on the windowsill.

After his arrest, Erazo admitted to stabbing Abbie — a confession that was recorded on video and one that Erazo's public defender is challenging.

Authorities have not publicly discussed whether they knew what motivated Erazo to kill the schoolgirl. Prosecutors say Abbie was stabbed in the neck with a knife, which Monmouth County Assistant Prosecutor Diane Aifer said was recovered and "ultimately shown to the defendant and identified by him as the weapon he used to kill AbbieGail Smith.”

Abbie had been reported missing by her mother about 8:45 p.m. July 12. Her body was found the next morning at 10:45. Erazo was arrested hours later.

On the night she went missing, police knocked on Erazo's door to ask him if he knew where Abbie might be. He told them he did not know, prosecutors said Wednesday. Aifer said Keansburg police did a visual search of the apartment and did not see anything.

Abbie's mother and relatives packed the courtroom Wednesday afternoon, all wearing T-shirts with Abbie's picture and dates of birth and death.

The only word her mother spoke Wednesday was "Yes!" when the assistant prosecutor told the judge that Erazo was facing life in prison if convicted on the first-degree murder charge.

Erazo was led into the courtroom with his hands and ankles shackled. He wore a jail jumpsuit and said nothing, keeping a blank stare on his face.

The judge on Wednesday ordered Erazo held without bail even though the state's new bail reform scoring system graded him as a low-risk for reoffending or fleeing justice.

Aifer, however, argued that the scoring system is not effective for evaluating suspects who have just turned 18. Officials say that Erazo was on probation for a violation committed as a juvenile.

His attorney argued that Erazo had not confessed to committing purposeful murder, and that his statement was obtained by police after he had been held for nine hours without an attorney by his side.

Public Defender Courtney Schneider argued her client is an impressionable young individual, not familiar with interrogation processes or procedures, and he did not have a lawyer with him while he was being interviewed.

“Mr. Erazo was scared, he was confused, and he was vulnerable,” she said.

“At no point during this interrogation did Mr. Erazo admit to a knowing or purposeful murder, which are the necessary elements of this offense that the state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt.”

She indicated the defense will file motions challenging the legality and admissibility of her client’s statement. 

She also tried to convince the judge Erazo was not a flight risk, and there was a very low probability he would commit another crime if he was released with an electronic monitoring bracelet before his trial.

Those who said they knew Erazo told reporters shortly after his arrest that he sometimes had trouble controlling his anger. One told NJ.com that Erazo "literally had demons he was fighting."

Abbie's funeral was Monday at St. Ann’s Church in Keansburg. It was not attended by her father, Kenroy Smith, who became the center of a separate drama involving his attempts to return to the United States to bury his daughter.

Smith’s application for a visa was turned down on Friday by the U.S. Embassy in Jamaica, which cited his past conviction for a drug offense. As a result of that crime, Smith was deported in 2001 and has remained in Jamaica.

Abbie and her mother moved to the United States from Jamaica in 2007.

Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-359-5348 or email sergio.bichao@townsquaremedia.com.

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