Autumn Pasquale was a typical seventh-grader. The 12-year-old blonde loved BMX biking and chatting with her friends on Facebook. It was a seemingly innocuous chat on the social media website that would lure her to her doom.
When Autumn saw a photo of 15-year-old Justin Robinson’s BMX bike on Facebook, she asked in an October 15 message: “is that ur bike?” Justin replied a minute later: “yeuop”. “Thts sexy!” Autumn wrote back. The conversation concluded with Justin chatting “Yess cme 2 my house.” Four days later Autumn disappeared.
The Pasquale family notified local police of their missing daughter last Saturday, sparking an exhaustive local search. On Monday night, the community of Clayton, N.J, held a candlelight vigil to pray for Autumn’s return. Those prayers were answered that night, but not in the way the attendees hoped: Autumn’s body was found in a recycling container just a few blocks from her home.
Autumn’s mother told police about suspicious Facebook messages which led police to the home of Justin and his 17-year-old brother Dante. A police search of the house uncovered Autumn’s bicycle — the one she rode through the neighborhood to the Robinson home just a few days earlier. The bin where the corpse was stashed sat on the property of an abandoned house adjacent to the Robinsons’ home.
“She was a tough girl, a tough cookie,” Autumn’s mother Jennifer Cornwell told reporters, not someone who deserved to be treated “like a piece of trash.”
“Everybody knows everybody,” in the town of 8,000, Cornwall continued, “whether they’re friends or acquaintances.” Autumn’s older brother was friendly with Justin Robinson, who even left supportive message for the worried sibling as police were searching for Autumn.
But that friendship is likely over now with the arrest of the Robinsons and the trickling out of details about the crime. Law enforcement officials maintain that Autumn went to the boys’ home to buy parts for a bicycle. Investigators revealed that Autumn was strangled and beaten to death — there was no evidence of sexual assault.
The brothers Robinson turned themselves in to police on Tuesday. They have been charged with murder, consipracy, theft and disposing of a body. Justin faces an additional charge of luring for the Facebook exchange that led to Pasquale’s visit. The Robinsons are being held in a detention center before their inital court appearance tomorrow. Prosecutors have not yet to announce whether they will seek to have the Robinsons tried as adults.
The boys’ father Alonzo Robinson said he had spent no time with his sons over the last year, blaming the absence on a contentious divorce. “It’s hard for me to swallow it,” he commented in regard to the news of his sons’ arrest. “They’re my two little sons,” he said plaintively.
While the media descends on the courtroom for its first glimpse of the alleged teen killers on Friday, Autumn’s family and friends will get their final look at their loved one the very next day. Autumn Pasquale’s funeral is set for 2pm Saturday — after a public viewing of the young girl beginning early that morning.