Two teenage brothers allegedly lured 12-year-old Autumn Pasquale to their house, strangled her and then dumped her body in a recycling bin, authorities said Tuesday afternoon.
The Clayton girl had been missing since about 12:30 p.m. Saturday, when she left home on her white BMX Odyssey bicycle.
Authorities on Tuesday arrested the brothers—ages 15 and 17—who live about five blocks from Pasquale's home. During a news conference in Clayton on Tuesday afternoon, Gloucester County Prosecutor Sean Dalton declined to release their identities because of their ages.
Each is charged with first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder, disposing of a body, tampering with evidence and theft. The 15-year-old was also charged with luring.
The teens lured the girl into their home by telling her they had parts for her bicycle, according to the prosecutor.
An autopsy performed Tuesday morning showed Pasquale died of blunt force trauma consistent with strangulation, according to Dalton. He said there was no indication Pasquale was sexually assaulted.
The teen's mother contacted authorities after seeing a Facebook post from one of her sons regarding Pasquale, Dalton said. He declined to elaborate on the substance of the tip.
Authorities executed a search warrant Tuesday at the teenagers' home that recovered "personal belongings of Autumn's in the juveniles' residence," including her bicycle, Dalton said.
Dalton said his office may seek to try the teens as adults. They will receive a detention hearing Wednesday in Family Court in Woodbury.
The case attracted media from as far away as New York to the small borough. In addition to dozens of members of the media, several Clayton residents also attended Tuesday's press conference. Some of them wiped away tears as Dalton provided the grisly details of Pasquale's death.
Dalton credited local residents for banding together to help in the search for Pasquale.
"Today we mourn the loss of a young girl whose life was tragically cut short before it even began," Dalton said.
"I know a lot of you are angry, and you have a right to be angry. At this point, we need to put anger aside. We have to let justice take its course."