Police in northern New Jersey are probing a possible link between a recent string of abduction attempts and the death of 12-year-old Autumn Pasquale, whose body was found stuffed inside a recycling container in the southern part of the state.
Pasquale, of Clayton, was last seen riding her bike away from her father's home on Saturday afternoon. After an extensive search of the area, investigators found the girl's body at 10 p.m. Monday night inside a recycling container not far from the home. An autopsy is still under way to determine the cause of death.
The grisly discovery comes as police in northern New Jersey hunt for a suspect or suspects responsible for at least eight kidnapping attempts in Bergen County. Authorities there say they are investigating a possible connection between Pasquale's death and the reported incidents in Westwood, Oradell, Hawthorne, New Milford, Maywood, Hackensack, Fair Lawn and Ridgewood.
"We are absolutely investigating whether there is a link," Westwood Police Chief Frank Regino told FoxNews.com. "There certainly is a possibility and only time will tell. We’re looking into every possible angle that we can."
Investigators say the abduction attempts in Bergen County all involve the luring of young girls by a stranger described as a middle-aged man with white hair.
In the Westood case, a 13-year-old girl said she was approached by a man while walking alone to school at around 7:10 a.m. on Thursday. She said the suspect, whom she described as a white middle-age male with a crew cut and receding hairline, pulled up next to her in a gray four-door hatchback. The girl reported seeing an NYPD sticker on the left-front windshield, Regino said.
The most brazen kidnapping attempt occurred last week in Hawthorne, where a man tried to drag a 13-year-old girl off a crowded soccer field and into a nearby woods. The girl managed to escape by kicking and screaming, authorities said. The suspect was dressed in a dark hooded sweatshirt and jeans.
Police are unsure whether the same man is involved in all the kidnapping attempts in Bergen County. They said it's possible the suspect could be disguising himself or switching vehicles.
Westwood is about 120 miles from where Pasquale lived in Clayton. The 12-year-old girl was last seen pedaling her white BMX bicycle away from the home where she lived with her father, her two siblings, her father's girlfriend and the girlfriend's children.
Bergen County Prosecutor John Molinelli told FoxNews.com that it would be a "real reach" to connect Pasquale to the abduction attempts in northern New Jersey until more information is known. It's not clear whether Pasquale was lured by a stranger, he said.