16-year-old arrested, human remains match description

Search for Terry Smith Jr. ends in gruesome way

MENIFEE, Calif. - The Riverside County Sheriff's Department arrested a 16-year-old family member on suspicion of murder in the case of a missing 11-year-old autistic boy.  

Menifee police Chief John Hill said at a news conference Wednesday afternoon that human remains matched the description of Terry Dewayne Smith Jr. were found partially exposed in a shallow grave on the family property. 

Hill said the death was the result of a domestic issue at the house.  

The body has not yet been positively ID'd by the coroner's office. 

Sergeant Lisa McConnell from the Riverside County Sheriff's Department said officers served a search warrant at the house early Wednesday morning when the remains were found.  The forensics team remained at the house for much of the day, digging, sifting through sand, and searching for clues.  

The Riverside County Sheriff's Department said Wednesday the search for Smith had been suspended. The mother, her partner and Smith's half brother were transported to be interviewed.

Since the boy's disappearance, massive search operations have taken place, with more than 700 people fanning out and looking for Terry at one time, wading through snake-infested scrub in the midday heat, shouting his name.  

``The strength and fabric of a community are never tested until an event such as this occurs,'' Menifee Mayor Scott Mann told reporters Tuesday. ``We have volunteers from all quarters of the city -- neighbors, ranchers, members of our church family -- people from all walks of life, who have come out in overwhelming support of this search.''  

Several members of the community attended the news conference Wednesday.  Once the news was announced, gasps and sobs could be heard from the crowd.  "It's very saddening," said Duane Staley.  "It's very saddening to find the human remains. 

Many residents were simply in shock, including Tracy and Richard Ballew, who's son is autistic.  "I can't even believe anybody would do that," said Tracy.  "I mean, he's a lot of work and a lot of stress, but know he's worth it.  I can't believe anyone would do that to a child."

Anyone with information is asked to contact the Riverside County Sheriff's Department at (951) 776-1099.

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