GLASSBORO, N.J. (AP) — Hundreds of mourners who packed a church Saturday to say goodbye to a 12-year-old who police say was killed by two teenage brothers were urged to do good works in her memory and dwell not so much on why she died so young but how she lived.
People lined up from morning until afternoon for Autumn Pasquale's wake at Our Lady of Lourdes Church. Some wore buttons bearing the girl's photo and T-shirts reading: "Autumn Pasquale forever in our hearts."
They filed by photo collages of Autumn riding a roller coaster, posing with Piglet, smiling with friends and family and playing soccer. "Our Angel" was written across one.
Autumn was found dead in a recycling bin last week. The two brothers have been arrested in her slaying.
Monsignor Michael Mannion eulogized the girl at a funeral Mass that followed the wake.
Autumn was a girl who was wise beyond her years, who listened to other people and cared about others, he said. She wanted to learn sign language so she could communicate with a man she knew who could sign but not speak, he added.
"So often when someone dies, especially at this age, we're haunted by the question why did she die?" Mannion said. "We struggle with it. We're hurt by it. We're broken by it. But I hope in the midst of that grieving, we can ask ourselves why did she live?"
Mannion said mourners need to embrace "spirituality without boundaries," where "we pray from the walls of this church to the prison walls as well. It's tough." He urged them to do good works as a way to remember Autumn's fiery, generous spirit. Talk to a classmate sitting alone at a lunch table, he said, or organize a charity bike ride in her memory.
"Let her life change yours. Let her spirit and let her soul, which connected so easily to other souls, become something we all remember," he said.
Police said Autumn, who disappeared while riding her beloved BMX bike last Sunday, was lured to a house by a 15-year-old who told her he wanted to trade bike parts. Police said he and his 17-year-old brother killed the girl and put her body in the bin near their home. The brothers and Autumn lived in Clayton, a town of about 8,000 about 25 miles south of Philadelphia.
The brothers were ordered detained after a juvenile hearing Friday. While authorities have not revealed their names because they are juveniles, neighbors and others in Clayton have identified them as 17-year-old Dante Robinson and 15-year-old Justin Robinson.
On Saturday, dozens of flower arrangements stood on the church's altar. Two were shaped like a soccer ball; one was a pink and white ice cream cone and another was a bicycle made from white flowers. Autumn's parents and family hugged mourners next to the girl's silver casket. A spray of purple and white flowers lay across it, along with three framed photos of her.