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Nation & World

Authorities ‘botched’ search for N.J. girl found strangled, family says

(MCT) — PHILADELPHIA — The family of Autumn Pasquale, the 12-year-old found strangled to death inside a curbside recycling bin in Clayton, N.J., on Tuesday, had tough words for Gloucester County, N.J., prosecutor Sean Dalton on Wednesday.

Paul Spadafora, uncle of the victim’s father, criticized the handling of the massive search undertaken in the days after Autumn went missing. He questioned why an Amber Alert was never issued and accused police of shoddy investigative work in not focusing their search more in Clayton.

“Right now there are so many things we think may have been wrong and done wrong,” said Spadafora. “They botched it. These are the professionals we trust and pay.”

His criticism extended to some of the fliers, saying they lacked a physical description of the missing girl.

The prosecutor’s office did not immediately return a phone call for comment.

The search for Pasquale began Saturday night after her family reported she had not returned home nine hours after leaving home on her bike. For three days local, state and federal law enforcement officials searched South Jersey for signs of the Clay Middle School student.

At a news conference Tuesday, Dalton explained that an Amber Alert was never issued because the report did not meet certain criteria, including the lack of evidence of an abduction.

Pasquale was lured to the home of Justin Robinson, 15, on Saturday with the prospect of obtaining parts for her BMX bike, according to the prosecutor’s office. While in the house in Clayton, she was allegedly beaten and strangled to death by Robinson and his 17-year-old brother Dante.

Funeral services will be held Saturday at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Glassboro, N.J.

Lawyers for the two teenage brothers arrested in Autumn’s strangulation inside their Clayton home in the meantime waived a juvenile detention hearing required within 24 hours of an arrest. The hearing is now set for Friday.

The Gloucester County’s prosecutor’s office said it will decide within two weeks whether to charge the brothers as adults.

A memorial fund has been established for Autumn’s family. Contributions can be made to the Autumn Pasquale Memorial Fund, c/o Fulton Bank, 35 North Delsea Drive, Clayton, N.J. 08312.

Officials have said that preliminary findings indicate she was not sexually assaulted.

The brothers have been charged with first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder, disposing of the body, tampering with evidence, and theft. Justin Robinson also was charged with a count of luring.

Her body was found Monday night in a recycling bin on the Robinsons’ block. Tuesday is collection day in Clayton and the containers are automatically unloaded into a truck.

The two suspects turned themselves in Tuesday morning after their mother alerted police to a suspicious posting one of the boys posted online.

The contents of that posting have not been disclosed.

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