Mom Stands By 16-Year-Old Son Accused of Murdering His Little Brother

Terry Smith Jr.
Terry Smith Jr.
A mother in California is facing quite possibly the hardest test a parent has ever faced. The dead body of Shawna Smith's autistic 11-year-old son, Terry Smith Jr., was found buried in her backyard. Cops say her 16-year-old sonSkylor Atilano, killed his little brother.

What's a mother to do? Abandon her oldest child? Or stand by him?

Shawna Smith has settled for the latter. Yes, this mom is standing by a child accused of murdering another child. As she told her local NBC station: "I'm not going to say he's innocent, but I'm not going to say he's guilty either. I love him and I'm going to stand behind him no matter what."

We could all sit around and judge her for her choice. It's practically the American way.

But before you do, look at what this mother has to contend with. She has one dead child, one facing murder charges. Oh, and on top of that, CPS has taken away her daughter while cops investigate what happened to Terry. Her life has, quite literally, been turned upside down. Walking away from one of her kids would only compound the trauma.

The hard truth is that every criminal came from somewhere. Many have moms and dads, sisters and brothers, aunts, uncles, grandparents who love them. It's not easy to just turn off years of caring for someone when they do something wrong. 

Granted, the crime Skylor is accused of is among the most heinous in this world. A child who murders can test even a mother's love. And that's with the murder of a stranger. I can't imagine how much worse it would be when the charge is murder of a sibling.

If Skylor did it, he took away one of the most precious things in Shawna Smith's life. But then, HE is ALSO one of the most precious things (people) in her life. 

And the sad fact is, she can't bring Terry back. Turning away from Skylor right now won't fix anything.

So she's standing by him. She's being a mom to both her boys, not just one.

I don't envy her, but I sure as heck respect her.

How about you? What would you do in Shawna Smith's position?


Image via police

family, tough topics


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Chana... Chanandler.Bong

I certainly don't admire her! Her actions following Terry's disappearance indicate that she at least had something to do with covering up his death. I have no respect for her, and I am glad CPS has been proactive in taking away her other child. There are reports from old teachers and this child's father that she even made up his autism diagnosis. Who does that? I get that my feelings are purely speculation on this case, but so are your feelings of empathy. My gut says she's not innocent in this, and it will be interesting to see how the investigation plays out. The only person I feel for in this situation is Terry.

hopef... hopefulmommieLW

You don't know what you are talking about!!! When a parent chooses to stand by a child that has committed heinous crimes against the other children in that family, she is choosing against the victim. I know I speak from experience, I have a mother that chose the side of my sibling, after finding out that horrible things were done to me, She told me, it' still her child and she loves him. How do you think that makes the victim child feel? Like SHIT! This mother has chosen to take the side of a KILLER, who KILLED her AUTISTIC son who was probably UNABLE to defend himself, and she is tarnishing the memory of her son, Her daughter should have been taken away...This woman has put her feelings and sorrow above the child she lost, and the girl she still has. If this 16 year old boy could KILL his BROTHER, Imagine the things he could have been doing to her DAUGHTER too...But go ahead, encourage her to stand by him, and protect him instead of her daughter, and that woman will end up regreting it for the rest of her life. She chose WRONG you protect the innocent NOT the GUILTY REGARDLESS if the guilty party is you child or not. ESPECIALLY when it is against your other innocent children. People like this DISGUST ME. And so do you for encouraging her.

Irela... Ireland69

I never want to be in her shoes! Sad for the whole family!   I wasn't there!

Trina_ Trina_

This kid sounds evil, I was trying to give the brother the benefit of the doubt UNTIL I read he buried his little brother in the backyard after he murdered him (allegedly). Who the heck does that? The bad thing is he most likely will be out on the streets again when he turns 18 or 21 because he is a minor in the juvenile justice system.


Where is the fathers statements on this?This "mother" has some issues.The father says that Terry Jr. WAS NOT autistic. If she can make up shit like this, I really wouldn't be surprised that she would stick by her killer son.@ Hopefulmommie:I'm hopeful for you.That's a horrible hell to be put in.


@ Trina:Hopefully since it's in Calif. he'll be tried as an adult.Let's hope.

Shannon Elysabeth Mundorff

She isn't a mother. Her daughter is lucky she isn't with her anymore... I wonder what else will come out during the trial. The 16 year old should NOT have been left in charge of his brother. There was a history of him being violent and having issues, and yet the "mom" left him alone with Terry, and now Terry is dead. She should be charged too as an accessory.

AionG... AionGladiator

"We could all sit around and judge her for her choice. It's practically the American way."

Judging by the comments on here, that statement is completely true. I don't admire her, but I am not going to judge her when I have no idea what she is feeling. I don't have any kids yet, but I talked about this kind of situation with my own mother once, and she said it would be the hardest thing in the world for her to not stand by her kids, regardless of what they were accused of doing. I can kind of understand. This women raised, loved, and cared for her son for his entire life, and now all of her children are practically gone. I can't even begin to think what I'd do in that kind of situation.

April... AprilJune

It's an impossible situation for her. I can certainly understand her choice when I try to put myself in her shoes.

Lizzy703 Lizzy703

This mother lost everything she loved in life. I can't Imagine nor do I want to no what is going on in her head. She raised all three of her kids with unconditionally love, and in a blink of eye their gone. Like she said she is not saying he is innocent , but she is standing by him. Which any mother with and ounce of compassion and love for their children would do. However their are some pigs out their that would give up on their children. And to me those people shouldn't have became parents to begin with. I have nothing but respect for this mother. She really has nothing to lose or gain but the one thing that she could say is She loved all her children the same no matter what choices they made bad,good, evil whatever . She Stood by her children.

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