CLAYTON, N.J. – Relatives of a slain 12-year-old girl from southern New Jersey said Thursday they want to avoid jeopardizing the criminal case and will not comment on the revelation that three days before she disappeared, she may have exchanged online messages with one of the teenagers accused of killing her.
"We want swift justice for Autumn," said Paul Spadofora, a great uncle and godfather of Autumn Pasquale, whose body was found in a recycling bin Monday near the teenagers' home. "We don't want to jeopardize the case."
Two brothers, 15 and 17, were charged with murder and other crimes against the girl, who would have turned 13 on Oct. 29. Authorities say the younger boy lured her to their home by promising to trade bicycle parts.
Both teens are due in court Friday for a hearing on whether they should remain in a juvenile detention facility.
A Facebook account that appears to belong to Justin Robinson had a picture posted in August of a BMX bike. On Oct. 17, a post apparently from Autumn asked: "Is tht ur bike?"
The two exchanged a volley of messages in abbreviated language. He answered, "yeuop." She proclaimed, "Thts sexy!" He responded, "lol thx" and later added: "yess cme 2 my house."
The exchange is no longer available on Facebook, but someone took a screenshot and saved it to the photo-sharing site ImageShack.
Autumn disappeared Saturday, three days after the exchange.
The Gloucester County Prosecutor's Office would not comment on the postings.
Authorities said Anita Saunders, the mother of the two suspects, called police because she was concerned about something one of her son's posted on Facebook. But police have not disclosed exactly what the posting said.
Gloucester County Prosecutor Sean Dalton said the mother's tip led investigators to the recycling bin behind a vacant home next to hers where Autumn's body was found — and to her sons.
Authorities have not released the names of the teens because they are charged as juveniles, though prosecutors say they are likely to seek to have the case moved to adult court.
Neighbors and other community members identify the boys as 17-year-old Dante Robinson and 15-year-old Justin Robinson. The boys' father and maternal grandfather both declined to speak about the boys on Thursday, but did not deny their names. Their names have been widely reported in the media.
Since the boys were arrested on Tuesday, the girl's family has criticized authorities for not having a more intense search sooner after she was reported missing — and asked the state Attorney General's Office to investigate the response.
Dalton defended his office's response, saying officials "poured their hearts and souls" into the case. Up to 200 law enforcement officials and hundreds more volunteers joined the search.
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