Clayton, N.J. Gloucester County officials arrested two teenage brothers in connection with the death of 12-year-old Autumn Pasquale, CBS Philly reports.
County prosecutor Sean Dalton said at a press conference Tuesday that Autumn, who was was last seen Saturday on her bicycle, was lured into the home of the 15- and 17-year-old brothers to obtain parts for her BMX bike. The crime was allegedly committed in that house.
Dalton said the boys' mother contacted police about posts she saw on her son's Facebook page.
"A preliminary cause of death is blunt force trauma consistent with strangulation," said Dalton, according to CBS Philly.
The suspects were charged with first degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder, tampering with evidence, theft, disposing of a body. The 15-year-old is also charged with one count of luring.
News of the arrests came less than 24 hours after authorities confirmed Pasquale's body was found in recycling bin at a property in Clayton, NJ.
"On this sunny morning, we mourn the loss of a beautiful girl named Autumn," said Dalton during a news conference earlier on Tuesday. "The search for Autumn is over, but the investigation to find out what happened to Autumn has begun."
On Tuesday, police found and seized a bicycle matching the one Pasquale was riding the day she disappeared, but did not immediately confirm the white Odyssey BMX was hers.
Police also seized a backpack they believe belonged to Pasquale, according to The Associated Press.
Autumn was last seen 12:30 Saturday afternoon, reported missing later that night, and was the subject of an in-depth search in and around the quiet town of Clayton.
"Our hearts go out to the family and to all the residents of Clayton who stood together in support of this little girl," Dalton said.
Dalton stressed Gloucester County and the borough of Clayton are safe communities and urged parents to do what they've always done. "You're going to hold your children close and take the necessary steps to protect your children like you've always had."
Autumn would have turned 13 a week from Monday. On Monday, a couple hundred volunteers showed up to help search for the girl, but this morning their worst fears have been realized.
Clayton resident Matt Quigley lives just doors down from where the body was found.
"I walked about eight miles yesterday, handing out pamphlets. Today, I find her 100 yards from my front door. It's crazy. We've been doing everything we can possibly do to bring this child home safely. And it's nuts."
As investigators worked to gather evidence from the scene where the body was found, Dalton, the prosecutor, thanked community members for all the help in the search and for their support of the grieving family.
"Everyone who's been involved from the start has a right to know what happened. We're going to find that out. But I think today we need to remember a young girl, and law enforcement will continue to do it's job so we can get the answers we're all looking for," he said.
Pasquale's family also thanked the community for the thousands of man-hours that went into the search for the 12-year-old.
"There's evil everywhere, even in the small town of Clayton," Paul Spadofora, the girl's uncle, said at the news conference.