MENIFEE, Calif. - A public memorial will be held Thursday for Terry Smith, Jr., the 11-year-old boy whose body was found in a shallow grave in his family's yard in Menifee. His half-brother 16-year-old Skylor Atilano now faces charges of murder. The father of the victim, Terry Smith, Sr., held a news conference to answer questions about his family, his ex-wife and what's next.
Smith Sr. held back tears while talking to reporters about his son. Smith lives in West Virginia, but came to California to grieve with others who knew the boy and searched for him. "It's open to everybody and just say their goodbyes and get some peace out of all of this," said Smith.
He took comfort in a small stuffed animal. A panda, his son's favorite. He held it while talking about the fight over his son's final resting place. "I'm not trying to bash my ex or anything else, but her exact words were 'oh, you're not going to get my baby," said Smith. My remarks to her were, 'oh, now you're going to claim him."
He says Terry was only supposed to visit his mother in Menifee and at times called him for help. "How Terry Jr. was always half and he was tired of being left alone," said Smith. "Basically, being babysat by video games and such."
A neglect he says, Skylor Atilano, also felt. The 16-year-old faces charges of murder in his half-brother's death, but Smith Sr., believe he shouldn't be charged alone. "Wholeheartedly, I don't think Terry Jr. ended up under that tree just by Skylor, and I won't believe it."
The Riverside County Coroner's office says the dental records provided by Terry's mother are too old to identify the body. DNA is now being used. The office said it could still be at least another four weeks.
The memorial service is being held at 6:30 PM on Thursday at Lamb's Fellowship church in Lake Elsinore. People are encouraged to carpool and to wear blue.