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Classification: Homicide
Characteristics: Juvenile (15) - He did not offer a motive
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: October 20, 2012
Date of arrest: 2 days after
Date of birth: 1997
Victim profile: Autumn Pasquale, 12
Method of murder: Strangulation
Location: Clayton, Gloucester County, New Jersey, USA
Status: Pleaded guilty. Sentenced to 17 years in prison on September 11, 2013

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NJ teen sentenced to 17 years in prison for strangling girl who disappeared on bike

By Associated Press -

September 12, 2013

WOODBURY, N.J. — A New Jersey teenager called his actions “a big mistake” as he was sentenced Thursday to 17 years in state prison for fatally strangling a 12-year-old girl whom he had lured to his home with an offer to trade bicycle parts.

Justin Robinson, now 16, pleaded guilty last month to aggravated manslaughter in a deal with prosecutors who were facing some major challenges in the case, including a lack of physical evidence to determine whether he or his brother Dante Robinson killed Autumn Pasquale in October 2012.

Robinson, who looked mostly straight ahead during the two-hour sentencing hearing, must serve more than 14 years before he is eligible for parole.

“I’m sorry. I never meant for this to happen,” he told Judge Walter Marshall. “This was all a big mistake.”

Relatives of the girl did not see it that way, and some wanted the judge to issue a tougher sentence than the one agreed to in a plea agreement. If the judge had done so, though, the plea could have been invalidated.

“I believe the defendant deserves more than 17 years,” said the girl’s father Anthony Pasquale, who as a mail carrier had delivered letters to Robinson’s family in Clayton, where the families of the victim and her killer had deep roots. “I believe his fate should be nothing but death.”

When he pleaded guilty, Justin Robinson said he acted alone. During a sentencing proceeding, neither he, his lawyers, nor prosecutors shed light on a motive for the killing, or even what happened beyond what was already known: Pasquale went to his house several blocks from hers after receiving a Facebook offer to trade bike parts on Oct. 20. When she didn’t return home that night, her family, then the entire community, set off in a frantic search. Two days later, her body was found in a recycling bin behind the home next to Robinson’s.

A break in the case for investigators came when the boy’s mother, Anita Saunders, called police after seeing something troubling in a Facebook post from one of her sons. Speaking briefly during the sentencing, Saunders told the judge that media accounts of what happened were incorrect. “Nobody knows exactly what happened the day of the accident,” she said.

Robinson’s lawyer, Jean Faulkner, told the judge that the boy had post-traumatic stress disorder from being physically abused as a young boy and seeing his father strangle his mother more than once. “This is a learned behavior,” Faulkner said.

Pasquale’s family told the judge about the Autumn, whom they described as a loving tomboy who wore mismatched socks and loved to ride her BMX bike.

They talked about how her disappearance and death touched the town, located 25 miles southeast of Philadelphia. Her old soccer team, once known as the Clayton Comets, is now Autumn’s Angels; her jersey number, 14, has been retired from the Clayton Middle School sports teams; a bike path and a park are now named for her.

And they told the judge how members of the family, including her siblings and young cousins, are in therapy and dealing with nightmares about her death.

“When I see the blue recycling bins out, I cry to think Autumn’s innocent life was so easily discarded like a piece of trash,” said the girl’s maternal grandmother, Mary Pasquale, who had taught Justin Robinson in school.

Prosecutors agreed to allow Robinson to plea to aggravated manslaughter rather murder because of challenges with the case. Because of his age and a developmental disability, it was not a sure thing that he would be moved to adult court. If he had been convicted of murder in juvenile court, he could have had a chance of parole in less than seven years.

They also have said that there was no evidence besides his confession that made it clear that it was he and not his brother who killed the girl.

Dante Robinson, who was 17 when he was arrested last October, is still charged with murder in family court. Authorities have not said when they may drop those charges.


One teen takes 'sole responsibility' in Autumn Pasquale killing

By Andrew Seidman -

August 09, 2013

One of two teenage brothers charged in the killing of 12-year-old Autumn Pasquale last year pleaded guilty Wednesday to aggravated manslaughter and took "sole responsibility" for her death, Camden County Prosecutor Warren Faulk said at a news conference.

Justin Robinson, 16, of Clayton, faces a sentence of 17 years, 85 percent of which must be served before he is eligible for parole.

"Autumn's death was senseless, and it shook the community to its core," Faulk said Wednesday. "There will never be punishment commensurate with her brutal killing. The best we can do is achieve some measure of justice."

The plea came after Robinson was voluntarily waived from juvenile to adult court by a Gloucester County judge. Justin's brother, 17-year-old Dante, is also charged in Autumn's death. Faulk said he could not comment on that case because of restrictions placed on juvenile proceedings.

Justin Robinson admitted choking Autumn to death in the basement of his home, Faulk said. He did not offer a motive.

Autumn, a seventh grader at Clayton Middle School, was reported missing the night of Oct. 20, 2012, nine hours after she left her father's house on her white BMX bike.

After a search that involved 200 officers from 20 local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies and numerous residents, her body was found two days later about a mile away in a recycling bin next to the Robinsons' house.

Justin Robinson, a Clayton High School student who was 15 at the time of the killing, and Dante Robinson, a special-education student at the Bankbridge School in Sewell, were arrested and charged with her murder hours later.

Four days before Autumn disappeared, Justin had invited her on Facebook to his house to work on her bicycle and potentially exchange parts.

She arrived at the house at 2:45 p.m. Oct. 20. Justin's mother and stepfather were not home at the time Autumn was killed, the Prosecutor's Office said. Attempts to reach the mother, Anita Saunders, were unsuccessful Wednesday.

The case was transferred to Camden County prosecutors after Autumn's godfather, Paul Spadafora, filed civil litigation against the Gloucester County Prosecutor's Office in February. Spadafora has said Prosecutor Sean Dalton botched the search for Autumn, suggesting she might still be alive if it had been handled differently. Spadafora could not be reached Wednesday.

Dalton's office has said Autumn likely was dead before she was reported missing.

Court proceedings remained in Gloucester County.

Neighbors and family described Autumn as a bicycle enthusiast. A month after her death, the Gloucester County Board of Freeholders named a county bike trail after her.

Faulk said the case relied on circumstantial evidence.

While the evidence "strongly pointed to the fact" that Autumn was killed in the Robinson home, it would have been difficult to prove "Justin Robinson's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt without his admission in court today," Faulk said.

Had Robinson not entered the guilty plea, it also would have been difficult to move his case to adult court, Faulk said. And if he had managed to stay in the juvenile system, he would have faced a maximum sentence of 20 years, with eligibility for parole after serving one-third of the sentence, Faulk said.

"The nature of the crime demanded that Justin Robinson be sentenced as an adult facing adult penalties," he said.

Attorneys for Autumn's father, Anthony Pasquale, and her mother, Jennifer Cornwell, said their clients were pleased with the plea agreement and praised prosecutors for their efforts and consultation. The parents are divorced.

About 25 members of the Pasquale family were present in court Wednesday for the plea, Faulk said.

"Mr. Pasquale has mixed emotions about today. Obviously there was some satisfaction in having the defendant take responsibility for this tragic event, for murdering his daughter," said Doug Long, Anthony Pasquale's attorney.

Cornwell's attorney, Jaime Kaigh, said: "Every case is unique. Certain problems in this case made this resolution palatable to my client."

Autumn's death roiled the small Gloucester County town and exposed a rift in her family. In February, Cornwell filed suit against Anthony Pasquale in a dispute over control of a $100,000 memorial fund set up in Autumn's name.

Cornwell alleged that Pasquale had her name removed from the bank account controlling the fund without telling her and that she had been excluded from the decision-making process for her daughter's tombstone. They settled in March.

Justin Robinson's sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 12 before Superior Court Judge Walter Marshall Jr. Faulk said he did not know when Dante Robinson would next appear in court.


Brothers Dante Robinson, Justin Robinson arrested for strangling missing 12-year-old Autumn Pasquale

By Lena Sullivan -

October 24, 2012

The teenagers accused of strangling Autumn Pasquale may have been implicated after one of them left a chilling message on her brother's Facebook page just hours after she was murdered.

Justin Robinson, 15, is accused with his brother Dante Robinson, 17, of killing the New Jersey 12-year-old for her BMX bike parts. He allegedly sent her brother A.J. a message on the social networking site simply saying 'Autumn'.

When it was seen by their mother, she turned her sons in, according to sources. They have been charged with murder, conspiracy to commit murder, disposing of a body, tampering with evidence and theft. Justin was also charged with luring.

Justin also wrote on his Facebook wall 'Might be moving', followed by a sad face just hours after he and his brother allegedly killed her and then 'liked' the page set up to find her.

Police believe the teens lured 12-year-old 'tomboy' Autumn Pasquale to their home on Saturday night under the pretense of trading bike parts and killed her.

An autopsy performed yesterday concluded she had died from 'blunt force trauma, consistent with strangulation'. She was also beaten. There was no evidence of sexual assault.

Gloucester County Prosecutor Sean Dalton said the boys may have wanted parts from Autumn’s bike. They turned themselves in on Tuesday.

Justin is a student at Clayton High School, while Dante is a student at Bankbridge Regional School in Gloucester County, a school for students with behavioral and developmental disabilities.

On Sunday night, while people from all over the area were searching for Autumn, Justin joined the 17,000 people on Facebook who liked the FIND AUTUMN PASQUALE page, according to

A break in the case came when the teens' mother alerted investigators to a Facebook post on one of her son's accounts, though it is not clear which son and what the post actually said.

After obtaining a warrant to search the teens' home, authorities found some of Autumn’s belongings including the white BMX bike she was last seen riding when she left her West High Street home Saturday afternoon around 12:30pm.

The house was a place where teens frequently hung out and had parties, some neighbors said, and one of the brothers often bought and sold BMX bicycle parts.

According to, family and friends were already leaving messages on Justin Robinson's wall saying they loved him and asking him to pray for forgiveness.

The teen's eldest brother Michael wrote: 'I love you so much little brother.'

Some messages however, were not so supportive. Autumn's older brother A.J wrote: 'I know u won't see this but I'm just letting u know that I am coming for [you] next time I see ur face or ur brother donte [sic] I'm kicking ur asses.'

It is unclear whether Dante had a Facebook or not.

Yesterday, an investigator wheeled a white, BMX-style bicycle from the Robinson house. Autumn's uncle James Spadafora is said to have recognized it immediately and holding his mouth said: 'Oh, my God, no. Oh, my God, that's it.'

Investigators also took bicycle rims from the house.

Dalton said his office was 'strongly considering' waiving both teens to adult court.

The boys themselves were in plain sight at points in the intense search for Autumn. Several people in town said they saw them both at the vigil held on Monday night in hopes that she would be found while allegedly knowing exactly where she was.

Joyce Fisher, who lives across the street from the boys, said: 'We all thought that he was some creep luring children.'

Philip Wames, another neighbor, said he was conflicted. 'It's almost like a relief that it's not some creepo,' he said.

The boys are expected in court for a detention hearings Friday.

Autumn's body was discovered on Monday night in a blue recycling bin. Tuesday was trash collection day, and many residents had dragged their trash cans and recycling bins to the curb the night before.

The covered recycling bins are collected by an automated truck that picks them up and dumps the contents into the back.

Police barricaded the block, and friends and neighbors came by to see.

Some mothers said they were keeping their kids out of school for the day.

Even before the body was found, students reported that Spirit Week had been canceled because of the sorrow.

One young man rode a bike up, sat on a porch of a home and cried, then biked away.

Clayton Mayor Thomas Bianco walked to the scene, cried, hugged a police officer and gave a brief statement to the gathered reporters.

'You hear about it in other places but never think it would happen in our little town,' he said.

Howard Kowgill, 60, who lives in town and, like many, knows members of Autumn's family, said the discovery of the body changes the nature of the town.

Dalton said: 'This is a very sad day for the Pasquale family. Our hearts go out to the family and to all the residents of Clayton who stood together in support of this young girl.'

About 200 law enforcement officials and hundreds more volunteers searched for Autumn after she was reported missing.

Her parents - Anthony Pasquale and Jennifer Cornwell - did not speak at the news conference. Both wept during the evening vigil.

Autumn, whose 13th birthday would have been next Monday, was last seen around 12.30pm on Saturday pedaling her white bicycle away from the Clayton home where she lives with her father, her two siblings, her father's girlfriend and the girlfriend's children.

A friend, DeAnna Edwards-McMillen, 11, said Autumn was at her house on Friday night and they exchanged text messages on Saturday.

She said she received the last one at 1.22pm and didn't believe it was intended for her. She said it read, 'don't be like that'.

DeAnna said her friend was nice and easy to be around: 'She didn't hate people and people didn't hate her.' DeAnna's mother, Debi McMillen, said that Autumn was often at their house and that she always went home before her 8pm curfew.

The last known communication was in a text message she sent at around 2.30pm.

Mr Dalton would not say who received the message or what it contained, but he added that there was nothing alarming or unusual about it.

It wasn't until about 9.30pm that she was reported missing - 90 minutes past her 8pm curfew, said Paul Spadofora, a family spokesman, the uncle of Autumn's father and the girl's godfather.


Autumn Pasquale's murder: 'Out of evil will come goodness'

By South Jersey Times

October 23, 2012

Hours after Autumn Pasquale’s body was found stuffed into a blue recycling bin and put to the curb for Tuesday’s pickup just a few blocks from her home, authorities wheeled her bicycle from inside the house next to where her body was dumped.

An audible gasp could be heard from the crowd gathering outside the house — many of whom awoke to the news that the exhaustive two-day search ended in a terrible tragedy.

“It’s her bike!” a bystander gasped as police hauled the white Odyssey BMX bike out of the small white bungalow.

The bike that 12-year-old Autumn — described by friends as a “tomboy” — was known to ride around town may have been what led to her murder.

Two teen brothers, identified by multiple sources as Dante and Justin Robinson, ages 17 and 15, have been charged.

Gloucester County Prosecutor Sean Dalton said the boys may have wanted parts from Autumn’s bike and lured her into their home Saturday afternoon, the day she went missing.

The boys have been charged with murder, conspiracy to commit murder, disposing of a body, tampering with evidence and theft. The younger brother, Justin, identified by his friends as a student at Clayton High School, was also charged with luring.

A law enforcement source said Dante is a student at Bankbridge Regional School in Gloucester County, a school for students with behavioral and developmental disabilities.

Dalton said the teens lured the 12-year-old girl to their East Clayton Avenue home where she was killed. An autopsy conducted Tuesday morning revealed Autumn died from “blunt force trauma, consistent with strangulation,” Dalton said. He added that there was no evidence of sexual assault.

Her death has been ruled a homicide.

Dalton said the two boys were accompanied by their attorney Tuesday afternoon when they turned themselves in.

Law enforcement officers were led to her body after the boys’ mother came to police to report “postings” on one of her son’s Facebook page. However, Dalton did not say which son posted the information or what it was

After obtaining a warrant to search the teens’ home, authorities found some of Autumn’s belongings including the white BMX bike she was last seen riding when she left her West High Street home Saturday afternoon around 12:30 p.m.

Autumn was reported missing Saturday night around 9:30 after she failed to return home by her 8 p.m. curfew. It is unclear where she was going.

The last bit of communication received was a text message Autumn sent at 2:27 p.m., Dalton said during a press conference Monday afternoon, however he did not say who the text was sent to.

By Saturday night, about 50 local police officers from Clayton and across Gloucester County began the search for the missing girl. The search continued Sunday and by Monday morning more than 200 local, county and state officials from 18 different agencies including the FBI had joined up in the search, deploying officers on horses and with police dogs, as well as a state police helicopter.

Paul Spadafora, Autumn’s uncle, addressed a crowd that gathered behind a local church Tuesday morning after news broke that his niece’s body had been found. Just hours before, hundreds gathered at the Clayton Municipal Building for a candlelight vigil to pray for her safe return.

“Clayton is a community that has embraced our family,” Spadafora said. “We are all distraught, but we all just spoke and said ‘out of evil will come goodness.’ And there is evil everywhere, even in the small town of Clayton.”

The small community, home to about 8,000 residents — many of whom participated in the massive two-day grid search to bring Autumn home safely — has been rocked by the devastating news of her death.

“I’m scared. It’s devastating (and) unnerving,” said Joyce Fisher, who lives across the street from where Autumn’s body was found.

She said she had heard nothing peculiar Saturday evening and called the murder “disturbing.”

“We have never had anything like this on this street before ever,” said Fisher.

Parents of local students have voiced their unease about the murder, wondering what they should do differently when their children are out walking the streets of Clayton.

Matthew Michael of West Academy Street came to pick up his 12-year-old son from school after classes were dismissed in the wake of the murder.

He said he was shocked at the news and admitted he’s becoming a bit more protective of his own son.

“I’m starting to become more concerned,” said Michael. “My son is her age.”

“When I was growing up, we didn’t have to worry about this kind of thing,” he added.

Authorities also found other physical evidence that led to the arrest of the two juveniles, Dalton said. He added that there was no evidence that the boys had previously known Autumn.

“Today we mourn the loss of a young girl named Autumn Pasquale whose life was tragically cut short before it really began,” Dalton said. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to her parents and her family.”

“I know a lot of you are angry about what happened and you have a right to be angry about what happened,” said Dalton addressing the crowd.

“It’s my hope the arrest today provides a measure of closure (for the family) that the individuals responsible for their daughter’s death will be held accountable,” Dalton said.

Authorities were not clear if the boys would be charged as adults.

— Staff Writers Cary Romalino, Phil Davis and Joe Green contributed to this report.


Police: Body of Autumn Pasquale found in recycling container in Clayton

By South Jersey Times

October 23, 2012

After an exhaustive two-day search to find Autumn Pasquale, authorities announced early Tuesday morning that a body has been found in a recycling container on East Clayton Avenue in Clayton.

The Gloucester County Prosecutor's Office said, in a statement released at 1:27 a.m. Tuesday, that a female's body was found in a container around 10 p.m. that "has been preliminary determined to be that of 12-year-old Autumn Pasquale" who went missing from her home Saturday afternoon.

The Prosecutor's Office said it would not release the exact location of where the body was found, but said only that it was in Clayton. Members of Autumn's family have been notified, police said.

"This is a very sad day for the Pasquale family," said Gloucester County Prosecutor Sean Dalton, whose office led the search with the assistance of nearly 20 other law enforcement agencies. "Our hearts go out to the family and to all the residents of Clayton who stood together in support of this young girl."

Just hours earlier, hundreds of community members gathered on the front lawn of the Clayton Municipal Building in a candlelight vigil to pray for her safe return. She was to turn 13 next week.

"Say your prayers for Autumn and all the children who are lost and can't find their way home," her uncle Paul Spadafora said over shouts in the crowd yelling for Autumn to follow the candle light to Clayton and "come home!"

During a press conference Monday afternoon, Gloucester County Prosecutor Sean Dalton, flanked by Autumn’s parents Anthony Pasquale and Jennifer Cornwell, announced a $10,000 reward for information leading to Autumn — $5,000 from the family and a matching amount from the prosecutor’s office.

It was not immediately clear how authorities found the body, or if the reward helped in the discovery. Check back on for more updates as they're made available.

The Clayton Middle School student was last seen around 1:30 p.m. on Saturday afternoon. She left her home on her white Odyssey BMX bike headed for a friend’s house. She was expected home at 8 p.m.

When family members hadn’t heard from her by 9:30 p.m., they alerted the local authorities.

“It was typical for her to check in,” Spadafora said.

By Saturday night, about 50 local police officers from Clayton and across Gloucester County began the search for the missing girl. The search continued Sunday and by Monday morning more than 200 local, county and state officials from 18 different agencies including the FBI had joined up in the search, deploying officers on horses and with police dogs, as well as a state police helicopter.

Police conducted more than 75 interviews with friends, family and anyone who saw Autumn on Saturday before her disappearance.

Authorities targeted the search to areas Autumn was last seen, specifically Scotland Run Park and a bike trail from Clayton to Williamstown. They've also pulled surveillance video from surrounding businesses in Clayton and did a canvass of all the registered sex offenders in Clayton, Franklin, Monroe and Glassboro.

More than 2,500 friends and neighbors joined police in the search on Monday and those who couldn’t tried to do their part by sharing the story on social media, tweeting#helpfindautumn. By late Monday night, more than 11,000 people had joined the Facebook group Find Autumn Pasquale.

Inside Clayton’s municipal meeting room, Clayton Crime Watch members and other volunteers divvied out highlighted maps volunteers who led groups of 12 on a grid search.

Some of them walked the streets of the borough and surrounding towns, pausing at intersections to hand out fliers with Autumn’s face on them.

One group — a mix of Clayton and Franklinville residents — spread out to the edge of Gloucester County to Holly Green Campground in Franklin Township near the Salem County border.

“In two days, who knows how far she could get,” said Paul Reina, of Deptford. They knocked on trailer doors, either leaving a flier with Autumn’s description or talking to the site’s occupants about how they can help find her.

“If you see anything weird, let the police station know,” Clayton resident Lisa Mills told one woman, who had already heard about Autumn on TV. “If it is (something) or isn’t, every little bit helps.”

Reina kicked over a few piles of pine needles, and checked inside trash cans at every site. But volunteers’ power to leave no stone unturned was limited.

Civilian searchers — thousands of them — were instructed not to disturb any private property, not to ask for entry into homes or sheds, and to stay out of the woods.

“They don’t want us getting in trouble or having more search parties for lost [volunteers],” said Walt Seitz, leader of Clayton Crime Watch.

Authorities said any uncoordinated searches of woods near Scotland Run Park and the Glassboro/Clayton Fish and Wildlife Management Area — where law enforcement focused their search — could interfere with police and K-9 unit ground sweeps for Autumn’s scent.

According to sources close to the investigation, a privately-owned hound got a hit on the girl’s scent at a Sunset Avenue small bungalow in Franklin Township behind Gleason’s Place, a bar on Williamstown-Clayton Road.

The Gloucester County Prosecutors Office would not confirm if there were any other K-9 hits in the woods near Scotland Run Park.

Paul Craig was one of several area men who worked with police to comb the woods on four-wheelers, after police asked him and other ATV-riding friends to help.

Monday morning, a half-dozen four-wheeler riders, some volunteers on horseback and two dozen people on foot met on Sykes Road in Williamstown to start searching the forest near the Monroe Township Bike Path, Craig said.

“At this point, I’m just looking for anything suspicious,” Craig said, standing by his four-wheeler behind Gleason’s Place. “I hunt so I know these woods.”

“You try to keep hope as long as you can ... always hope for the best,” he added.

Clayton Mayor Tom Bianco said earlier Monday he was proud of the community’s support in searching for Autumn.

“I can only imagine what her parents and the rest of the family are thinking right now,” Bianco added. “I have kids. I can’t even tell you what I feel now. We’ll get through and find her.”

Reporters Melissa DiPento and Carly Romalino contributed to this report.



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