Posted at: 10/25/2012 7:14 AM
By: Jennie Olson
Some of the residents of Clayton suspected their two teenage neighbors were troublemakers, but there was nothing to indicate they were capable of violence.
Now, the brothers, ages 15 and 17, are accused of murdering a 12-year-old girl from the neighborhood and stuffing her body into a recycling bin, a crime that has shaken this south Jersey community where "everybody knows everybody."
Authorities say Autumn Pasquale, a well-known and well-liked seventh-grader, was lured with the promise of new parts for the beloved bicycle she was riding before she disappeared Saturday afternoon. Her body was found Monday night in the recycling bin behind a vacant house next to the boys' home.
Sixteen-year-old Na'eem Williams, who described himself as a close friend of the 15-year-old, said that he knew the brothers to take bicycles but that it was a leap to think them capable of killing someone.
"I know they didn't do nothing like that," he said. "I know they couldn't, especially not with a young girl."
Another neighbor, Toni Fiorella, saw a different side of the boys. She'd see their mother drop them off at the laundromat to do the family's wash. She didn't know them by name, but they were always respectful. Their mother must be on to something, Fiorella thought.
"It's good," she said. "She's making them responsible."
The boys were charged Tuesday with first-degree murder in Autumn's death. Authorities have not discussed a motive and have not released the names of the brothers because they are charged as juveniles. The Associated Press is withholding the names for the same reason.
Deputy Public Defender Jeffrey Wintner said his office was representing both defendants, though a private attorney had been assigned to handle one of the cases. He said the office would have no comment.
Autumn's mother, Jennifer Cornwell, told reporters Tuesday that she felt as though her daughter had been treated "like a piece of trash" because of where her body was recovered.
The girl's father, Anthony Pasquale, a postal worker in Clayton, said he is familiar with the family of the suspects.
"Everybody knows everybody," in the town of 8,000, he said, "whether they're friends or acquaintances."
The boys, who have other brothers who are not charged in the case, were themselves seen at a vigil held Monday night for Autumn. The younger boy apparently exchanged messages with Autumn's teenage brother on Facebook on Sunday.
The brother, A.J. Pasquale, wrote on his page that police, search dogs and the media were involved in the search. "thts good," was the reply from an account that appeared to belong to the 15-year-old suspect.
People who know the boys say the younger suspect is a sophomore at Clayton High School and has been on the wrestling team. The older boy, they say, attends Bankbridge Developmental Center in Sewell, a school for students with social, behavioral and academic problems. He was seen outside the family's home less often, neighbors say.
Beverly Davis said she went to school with Autumn's father and the suspects' mother.
"We are not surprised by who the suspects were," Davis said. "We're not surprised at all. They're not always on the right side of the law."
Davis said one boy stole one of her children's bikes. And the boys' father told the Star-Ledger newspaper of Newark that their sons were known for stealing bikes, and that one son had previously been charged with theft.
Naomi Sampson, 76, said that her family has had a home for a century half a block from the boys' home - and that the boys' family has lived there about as long. She saw the boys grow up, she said.
"We know they're troubled," she said.
But others who observed the boys found them to act the right way around adults, to smile and be courteous. Fiorella, for example, said she thought it was unusual to see two teenage boys doing laundry.
Authorities say their mother saw something in one of their Facebook postings that gave her cause to call police Monday. It was that call, officials said, that led investigators to the body and her sons.
She has not returned messages from the AP. The boys' father told reporters that he has not seen the boys in a year and has not seen much of them in the past seven years or so.
The teens are due in court Friday for a hearing to determine whether they are to remain in custody. Prosecutors say they may ask that the case be moved to adult court.
Both boys are charged with murder, conspiracy to commit murder, disposing of a body, tampering with evidence and theft. The younger boy is also charged with luring, allegedly telling Autumn to come over to trade bike parts.
Funeral services for Autumn are set for 2 p.m. Saturday at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Glassboro, following a public viewing at 8 a.m.
(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)