MENIFEE, Calif. - The Riverside County Coroner's Office today officially identified the remains of an 11-year-old Menifee boy discovered in the backyard of his mother's house, where his older half-brother allegedly buried him after killing him.
Sheriff's Sgt. Lisa McConnell said the cause of Terry Smith Jr.'s death was pending -- coroner's officials only said he was the victim of a homicide.
The boy's mother contacted Riverside County sheriff's deputies on July 7 to report him missing. His 16-year-old half-brother, Skylor Atilano, initially told investigators he had last seen Terry Jr. playing video games in his bedroom. However, two days later, the teenager changed his story, saying he had spotted his brother following him to a nearby market and directed him to return home.
Over the ensuing days, volunteers fanned out over the area to look for Terry Jr., who was described by his mother as autistic with the mental capacity of a 7-year-old -- a claim his father disputed.
Shortly after midnight on July 10, Terry's body was found in a shallow grave under a tree about 75 feet behind the family home in the 33000 block of Helen Lane.
Atilano was arrested and charged with murder. He is being held at Southwest Juvenile Hall in Murrieta and is scheduled to make his next court appearance on Sept. 17.
Prosecutors intend to request that he be tried as an adult.