Pasquale's family asks if authorities did enough

Posted: October 26, 2012

AS A SOUTH JERSEY town prepared to say goodbye to its "tough cookie," some members of Autumn Leigh Pasquale's family raised questions Wednesday about the investigation into her violent death.

A girl who loved the Phillies, the color blue, and mismatched socks will be laid to rest in her town Saturday, just two days before she would have become a teenager, and some of her relatives were not at peace.

Her uncle Paul Spadafora urged New Jersey Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa to investigate how the search for Pasquale was handled. Chiesa said his office has been in contact with Gloucester County Prosecutor Sean Dalton and intends to "get full details from him regarding the law-enforcement response."

Others questioned how the investigation played out and whether anyone was involved besides Justin Robinson, 15, and Dante Robinson, 17, the brothers alleged to have killed her after luring her to their house to trade bicycle parts.

"There's more to it, in my opinion," said James Spadafora, Paul's brother.

He said he agreed with Pasquale's mom that the girl was a "tough cookie" who would have fought for her bicycle. Dalton's office said Pasquale died of blunt-force trauma and strangulation.

Dalton, in a statement, said his office's investigators had "poured their hearts and souls into this investigation and worked around the clock to find Autumn."

"This is a time to start the healing process and let the justice system move forward with this case," Dalton said.

A viewing for Pasquale, who went missing on Saturday and was found dead Monday night in a curbside recycling bin in Clayton, is scheduled from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at Our Lady of Lourdes Church, on Greentree Road in nearby Glassboro.

A funeral Mass will begin at the church at 2 p.m. and Pasquale will be interred at Cedar Green Cemetery in her hometown.

The house into which she recently moved, on West High Street, isn't far from her old house. She died about six blocks away, authorities said, allegedly murdered at the hands of the two teenage boys whose family also has deep roots in Clayton.

The funeral home that will handle Pasquale's remains is just around the corner from her house, and Clayton will always be her home: The cemetery is less than a mile from her house.

"Everybody knows everybody," Autumn's father, Anthony Pasquale, told 6ABC on Wednesday.

Pasquale's family and friends also vented their frustrations, questioning whether authorities acted quickly enough after she was reported missing at 9:30 p.m. Saturday.

"The family's just looking for justice for Autumn," said Bruce Patterson, a longtime friend of Anthony's who was tossing a football outside their home Wednesday night.

The mother of the suspects, Anita Saunders, contacted authorities after seeing a post one of her sons had made on Facebook. It was unclear what that post was, although Justin Robinson had interacted with Pasquale's brother on Facebook and mentioned that he might be moving.

Saunders did not seek or receive reward money for helping authorities, said Bernie Weisenfeld, a spokesman for the Gloucester County Prosecutor's Office.

Saunders' cousin David Triplett said she is "probably pissed off at her sons to the point where she doesn't want to see them right now."

"I know she feels the deepest hurt for Autumn, too," Triplett said. "She was born and raised in Clayton."

No one answered the door at Saunders' home Wednesday as a steady stream of people left flowers and stuffed animals at a memorial just outside her back yard.

Both brothers were charged with murder, conspiracy, theft, and disposing of a body. Justin also was charged with luring, authorities said, for allegedly getting Pasquale to his house under the pretense of trading bicycle parts.

They will make their first appearance in Superior Court on Friday. Dalton said his office is "strongly considering" charging them as adults.


Contact Jason Nark at narkj@phillynews.com or 215-854-5916. Follow him on Twitter @JasonNark.

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