CLAYTON, NEW JERSEY (Courier Post Online) -- Autumn Pasquale loved to ride her BMX bike.
On Saturday, she headed to nearby Scotland Run Park to enjoy the paths and hills as she often did.
Police say that passion likely led the 12-year-old to a brutal death.
Lured to a nearby home on the premise of buying bicycle parts, the Clayton girl was killed by two teenage brothers, who then dumped her body in a recycling bin, according to authorities.
On Tuesday, 15-year-old Justin Robinson and his 17-year-old brother, Dante, who lived with their mother and stepfather in the 300 block of East Clayton Avenue, were charged with Autumn's death.
Investigators said a key break in the case came when the mother notified police after seeing a suspicious posting on the Facebook account of one of her sons. Several students said Tuesday the message included only one word: Autumn. The message was allegedly sent to the victim's brother.
The Gloucester County Medical Examiner's office determined the cause of death as blunt force trauma, consistent with strangulation.
"The manner of death is homicide," said Gloucester County Prosecutor Sean Dalton.
He added that there were no signs of sexual assault.
The two brothers were charged with first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder, disposing of a body, tampering with evidence, and theft.
In addition, Justin Robinson was charged with one count of luring.
Dalton said his office is considering trying to have the case transferred to adult court.
The boys turned themselves in with their attorneys, who are public defenders.
After hearing from the mother, Dalton said police executed a search warrant on the home Tuesday morning and found the girl's white Odyssey BMX bicycle, her backpack and other evidence.
Justin was known for trading BMX bike parts, said friends Corey Hewes, 19, and Alexis Davis, 16, who joined dozens of people who stood outside the suspects' home behind yellow police tape. Bicycle parts were visible in the home's backyard.
Police believe that is why Autumn, who lived several blocks away on West High Street, went to the house.
Police said that the Clayton Middle School student, who was set to celebrate her 13th birthday next week, disappeared Saturday afternoon, prompting a massive two-day search of the park and nearby streets.
About 10 p.m. Monday, police discovered Autumn's body inside a large blue recycling bin outside a vacant property not far from the suspects' home. At that time, many of the town's residents were at a candlelight vigil. Several people said the two suspects also attended the vigil.
Tuesday is trash collection day, and many residents had dragged their trash cans and recycling bins to the curb the night before. The covered recycling bins are collected by an automated truck that picks them up and dumps the contents into the back.
On Tuesday, Autumn's family addressed the media and the public at the same spot outside borough hall where just 24 hours prior hundreds of people turned up to start a massive public search effort.
"We have lost a precious, precious child," said Paul Spadafora, Autumn's uncle and godfather.
He thanked the public, authorities and members of the media for their response and caring during the search.
"It's not the results we wanted, but we have closure," Spadafora said.
Prosecutor Dalton added that thoughts and prayers go out to Autumn's parents and family.
"It is my hope that the arrest today can provide a measure of closure," he said.
Dalton also thanked members of the community who helped with the search and provided tips.
"I know a lot of you are angry over what has happened and deservedly you have a right to be angry," he said. "I hope today there is some measure of closure and that we can all join in mourning the loss of this beautiful child."
Clayton Mayor Thomas Bianco who walked to the scene on East Clayton Avenue, cried, hugged a police officer and gave a brief statement to the gathered reporters.
"You hear about it in other places but never think it would happen in our little town," he said.
Clayton Police Chief Dennis Marchei shared a similar view.
"The borough of Clayton today has been rocked," he said. "It was sad and tragic; however, this experience has proven to me that this community and the family has shown that our spirit has not been rocked."
Courier Post Online