Black Hate Crime of the Week – Autumn Pasquale
On Saturday, October 20, 2012, 12-year-old Autumn Pasquale was reported missing. After a brief, intense search, police found her body in a recycling container early Tuesday morning. Her death sent shockwaves through Clayton, the small town where she was from. Two teenage brothers were charged with her murder.
This is her story. Below you will find the South Jersey Times’ complete coverage, with supplemental stories from The Star-Ledger, of Autumn Pasquale’s disappearance, the discovery of her body, the resulting fallout, and the trial. You can also see all stories here.
Current status: The two young brothers accused of killing Autumn Pasquale are awaiting trial.
Initially, authorities asked for help for anyone who had any information on the disappearance of missing Clayton girl Autumn Pasquale. She went missing on Saturday, October 20, 2012. She was last seen around 12:30 p.m., according to police, and relatives reported her missing at 9:30 p.m. that night.
FINDING THE BODY:
After an exhaustive two day search, authorities announced that they had found the body of Autumn Pasquale in a recycling container in Clayton. Just hours earlier, family and friends had gathered for a vigil to pray for her safe return. She was just one week away from her 13th birthday.
MURDER AND MOTIVE:
Two teenage boys, Donte and Justin Robinson, were charged with murder, conspiracy to commit murder, disposing of a body, tampering with evidence and theft. An autopsy revealed that Pasquale likely died of blunt force trauma, consistent with strangulation, and that there was no evidence of sexual assault. Authorities said that they believed the teenage boys wanted Pasquale’s bicycle and its parts.
It was also revealed that a Facebook post by one of the suspects invited Pasquale to his home when she expressed interest in a bike. Residents also said that one of the suspects attended a vigil where people prayed for her safe return, and that he “liked” her memorial page.
REACTION BY FAMILY, COMMUNITY:
The news of the death sent shockwaves through the town. The family mourned the loss of the young girl; her uncle said that “out of evil will come goodness.” They were left with despair and frustration, and questions: how would they be able to rebuild their lives? Why wasn’t there an AMBER alert? Months after Pasquale’s death, her father was still searching for answers.
FUNERALS, MEMORIALS, AND MORE:
After her death, benefits and memorials took place to commemorate her life. A bike trail, for example, was named after her.
The Gloucester County prosecutor handed off the murder case to Camden County to prevent a potential conflict of interest mistrial from occurring, since the family intended to file suit against the county.
PASQUALE FAMILY VS. THE COUNTY; FAMILY INFIGHTING:
Grief turned to anger as Autumn Pasquale’s family turned their ire on Gloucester County officials for what they perceived to be a sluggish response to her disappearance. They particularly had issue with Gloucester County Prosecutor Sean Dalton, who oversaw the rescue and recovery effort.
Additionally, there was infighting within the family over the memorial fund, when their parents engaged in a litigation battle. The mother sued the father, saying she was cut out of the memorial fund established in her daughter’s name. It was ultimately settled out of court.