The case of Terry Dewayne Smith just took a heartbreaking twist. The 11-year-old California boy who has autism was last seen at his Menifee, Calif. home Saturday. Hundreds of volunteers have searched for him since, and this afternoon human remains that match the description of Smith were found in a shallow grave in his family's back yard. Police say a 16-year-old family member has been arrested on suspicion of murder.
The case was awful enough when it appeared to be yet another incident in which a child with autism wanders away from his or her home. It happens much too frequently and is a real danger to this population. But to now think that someone in his own family intentionally hurt this boy is sickening.
According to ABC, police won't identify which family member it was, but said that the arrest was made as a result of interviews police conducted. However, they also said that a 16-year-old stepbrother (who shares the same biological mother as Terry), as well as the boy's mother and her partner were questioned, so it's not a huge leap to assume that it's the stepbrother who has been arrested, and many media outlets are reporting that is indeed him.
Menifee police chief John Hill told ABC:
One of the things I want to stress is that this was a domestic issue within that residence, and that there is no stranger in the city of Menifee that caused this to happen.
Terry's mom said she left the boy with his stepbrother Saturday evening while she went to play pool. When she went to check on them at 1 a.m., she thought they were sleeping, but realized in the morning Terry was gone. She reported him missing at 10:30 a.m. Sunday. The stepbrother said he last saw Terry walking down a street near their house.
As a mother, I can't imagine how heartbreaking it would be if her son is proven to be responsible for the death of her other son. To lose a child at the hands of your other child has got to be excruciating, because in a sense you really lose them both. How you even begin to deal with that kind of emotion is unthinkable.
There are still many questions that remain in this case, and it's too early to make any conclusions. At this point, the only thing we know for sure is that this family can use all the positive thoughts and prayers they can get.