Teen brothers arrested in the murder of 12-year-old Autumn Pasquale in New Jersey allegedly lured the girl to their house and killed her for her BMX bicycle parts. WCAU's Jesse Gary reports.
Updated at 4:50 p.m. ET: CLAYTON, N.J. -- Two teenage brothers have been charged in the death of 12-year-old Autumn Pasquale, whose body was found in a recycling bin, a New Jersey prosecutor says.
Gloucester County Prosecutor Sean F. Dalton said Pasquale died in a manner consistent with strangulation.
"Preliminary investigation shows no signs of sexual assault,” Dalton said, adding “she was lured to the juveniles’ house where this crime was committed."
Authorities said they believe the boys wanted parts from Autumn's bike and that she was lured into the house, but Dalton would not speculate on a motive for her killing.
The boys' father, Alonzo Robinson, told The Star-Ledger of Newark earlier Tuesday that he was interviewed about his sons' involvement in Autumn's disappearance. He said his sons were known for stealing bikes and police told him they found bike parts stockpiled in the basement. He told the newspaper that one of the boys had been previously charged for theft.
"I think someone wanted the girl's bicycle," Robinson said. "Maybe she wanted her bike and resisted, and one of them snatched her off a bike."
Joseph Kaczmarek / AP
Gina Bateman, left, and her sister Carmen Bateman watch as investigators gather at a house on Clayton Avenue in Clayton N.J. on Oct. 23, after the discovery of a girl's body in a home's recycling bin.
Autumn was last seen around 12:30 p.m. on Saturday leaving her Clayton home while riding a white BMX bike to a friend's house. The girl’s parents called police after she never made it to that friend's house.
Her body was found late Monday in the recycling bin of a home where the teens' live, about seven blocks from her own, authorities say.
The boys, ages 15 and 17, are charged with first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder, disposal of a body, tampering of evidence and theft. The 15-year-old boy was also charged with one count of luring, Dalton said. Both were in police custody.
Police believe the boys lured Autumn to their home, promising her parts for her BMX bike. During their investigation, the mother of the teens contacted police regarding postings on a Facebook account of one of the suspects, according to officials.
“Today we mourn the loss of a young girl…whose life was cut short before it really began,” Dalton said. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to her parents, her family. It is my hope that the arrests today provide a measure of closure, that the individuals responsible for their daughter’s death will be held responsible.”
The case spread fear and worries through the New Jersey town that had been desperately searching for the girl since she disappeared while on a ride through the neighborhood.
Autumn would have celebrated her 13th birthday on Monday.
"There's evil everywhere, even in the small town of Clayton," said Paul Spadafora, Autumn's uncle.
Earlier Tuesday, Spadafora spoke with community members, thanking each of them of helping in the search for his niece.
Hundreds of volunteers took part in the search effort, including the Clayton Police Department, Child Abduction Response Team, New Jersey State Police, the FBI and officers from 40 other police departments.
Autumn's bike was found Tuesday by police inside the same small house where Autumn's body was found Monday night, NJ.com reported.
Autumn's family was notified of the discovery, according to police.
"This is a very sad day for the Pasquale family," Dalton said in a press release. "Our hearts go out to the family and to all the residents of Clayton who stood together in support of this young girl."
Joseph Kaczmarek / AP
Investigators gather at a house on Clayton Avenue in Clayton, N.J., on Oct. 23, after the discovery of a girl's body in a home's recycling bin.
Not long before the body was found, hundreds of people gathered at a candlelight vigil to pray for her safe return, NJ.com reported.
The prosecutor’s office and family had offered a $10,000 reward for information leading to her return.
DeAnna Edwards-McMillen, a friend of Autumn’s, said Autumn was at her house Friday night and the two sent each other text messages on Saturday. The last one was received at 1:22 p.m. and DeAnna said she didn't believe it was meant for her, according to The Associated Press.
The text read, "don't be like that," she said.
Autumn’s last text message was sent around 2:30 p.m., but Dalton, the prosecutor, would not say who it was intended for or what it said, The AP reported. Dalton said that there was nothing unusual about that message.
Joseph Kaczmarek / AP
Family members of Autumn Pasquale participate in a candlelight vigil on Oct. 22 in Clayton, N.J.
Autumn was reported missing at about 9:30 p.m., 90 minutes past her 8 p.m. curfew, Spadofora said, according to The AP.
"Say your prayers for Autumn and all the children who are lost and can't find their way home," Spadafora said at a vigil Monday, NJ.com reported.
Earlier on Monday, Clayton Mayor Tom Bianco said he was proud of the community’s joint effort in searching for Autumn.
“I can only imagine what her parents and the rest of the family are thinking right now,” Bianco said, according to NJ.com. “I have kids. I can’t even tell you what I feel now. We’ll get through and find her.”
The Facebook group, Find Autumn Pasquale, has more than 14,000 “likes,” with members offering condolences and words of support.
“My family misses u and im so glade that u had such a good time with us camping last weekend [sic],” commented Michelle Doughty after the news was announced early Tuesday. “I have such good memories of u and will always miss u. I will always have u in my heart.”
NBCPhiladelphia.com's David Chang and Karen Araiza contributed to this report, as did NBC News's Sevil Omer.
More content from NBCNews.com:
- Wisconsin salon shooter's estranged wife among dead
- Russell Means, Indian activist and actor, dies at 72
- Wrongful death lawsuit filed against Anaheim police
- Police search for missing 12-year-old girl in New Jersey
- Chunk of meteorite falls onto San Francisco home