But, where the three-day search in the small southern New Jersey town of Clayton had involved 2,500 civilian volunteers and more than 700 law-enforcement officers employing dogs and horses and helicopters, the hunt required only a middle-aged mother checking her teenage son’s Facebook page.
The mom had gone on the page because her 15-year-old son has a keen interest in BMX bicycles. The news was reporting that Autumn had last been seen on Saturday riding a white Odyssey BMX bicycle.
The Gloucester County prosecutor declines to say exactly what posting the mother saw that made her suspicious enough to go to the Clayton police. She is said to have given them her house keys.
The police searched the house and a plainclothes investigator reportedly came out wheeling a white Odyssey BMX bicycle with a gloved hand. Police also allegedly found Autumn’s backpack.
The 15-year-old boy and his 17-year-old brother were arrested and charged with murder, tampering with evidence, and improperly disposing of a body. The younger boy also was charged with luring. Police say they believe the younger suspect used the acquaintanceship to draw her into the house, where she was strangled.
The alleged killers may have been hoping to steal Autumn’s bike for parts. One of the suspects is said to have a previous arrest for theft. Police reportedly found parts stolen from other bikes in the basement.
The thought of all that imparts a chill to what Autumn posted on Facebook as her favorite quote.
“BMX FOR LIFE.”
Her most recent profile picture is a self-portrait taken in a mirror with her cellphone. She’s wearing a black tank top, sweatpants, and fashionably mismatched socks. Her hair gleams in the light, but her face is in shadow, as if she were still figuring out what to present to the world now that she was on the verge of becoming a teenager.
“I like to hang out with my friends and ummmmmm listen to music and ummmmmmmmmmmmmm i play soccer,” Autumn writes on her page.
An earlier profile photo is from her little-girl days playing with the Sicilia Pizza team in the Clayton kids' soccer league. She is holding a pink soccer ball and her smile is minus one front tooth.
“Awwwwww you are soooooo cuuuute!:),” a friend commented about the picture back in November.
“R.I.P Beautiful,” another friend posted in the hours after her body was found.
In a third photo, Autumn has her hair combed back and is wearing glasses. She looks very much like the straight-A student she indeed had always been.
A fourth picture shows her floating in a pool in a multicolored inner tube, looking grade-school glamorous in sunglasses and now with both her front teeth. Her brother floats on some kind of inflatable creature in the background, all of it making small-town life seem happily distant from the world’s troubles.
Among her 612 friends, one of the first listed is a boy named Kyle whose own profile picture shows him airborne on a BMX bike. His postings mark the hours after Autumn vanished on Saturday.
“AUTUMN PASQUALE HAS BEEN GONE SINCE 1 O CLOCK COPS CAME TO MY HOUSE LOOKING FOR HER IF U CAN TRY TO HELP FIND HER PLEASE DO.”
“praying for the best of u autumn please come home some 1 find her she does not deserve this she is only 12.”
“We need to look for autumn who wnts to?”
“going to bed sleep tight autumn we will find u.”
“just got home from tlking to the cops bout where autumn might be but i really dnt know … y this have to happen? like really whereever u r autumn or whoever has her give her the f—- back. she is so nice and she (is only) 12. she dnt deserve this.”
“2 days autumn has been missing. we will find u AUTUMN”
“praying every night tht u come home safe autumn”
“rip autumn pasquale … we were close and some a—hole kills her and puts her in a recycling bin WTF”
“dnt wanna ride in clayton anymore”
“didnt sleep all night so sad who would do tht? well i no ur in the sky somewhere. say hi to god for me.” see u one day autumn ur friend kyle :)”
In amongst the other Facebook friends is the 15-year-old suspect. He joined Facebook just in August and posts no profile pictures. He also appears among the Facebook friends of Autumn’s brother, who noted in a posting after the arrest that he knew both suspects.
“It’ sad because I know them,” the murdered girl’s brother said on his Facebook page.
After the two teenagers were arrested, a third brother, who is 18, went online. He posted a Facebook message to the 15-year-old:
“I love you so much little brother.”
The two accused killers were in custody as tender expressions of loss appeared on Autumn’s page from dozens of her true friends.
“Although you will not be able to read this, I love you,” one wrote. “Rest Easy baby girl. Everyone will miss you. & you will NEVER be forgotten.”
Her birthday would have been on Monday, exactly a week after her body was found. She would have turned 13.