MENIFEE, Calif. (KTLA) — Police continued their investigation on Thursday into the death of a Menifee boy, a day after a teenage family member was arrested on suspicion of murder.
Detectives received a tip around 1 a.m. on Wednesday alerting them to possible remains in the 38000 block of Helen Lane, police said.
“Officers on arrival located a partial grave containing partially exposed human remains,” said Riverside County Sheriff’s Capt. John Hill.
The remains had yet to be identified, authorities said.
However, police confirmed on Wednesday the discovery of a body that fit the description of 11-year-old Terry Smith, Hill said.
Authorities called off the days-long search for Terry and interviewed the boy’s family.
“As a result of those interviews, a 16-year-old family member was arrested for murder,” Hill said.
The teenager was not identified.
Terry had been living with his mother, Shawnee Smith, her partner, a 13-year-old girl and a 16-year-old half-brother, according to neighbors.
That half-brother was reportedly the last person to see Terry on Saturday evening, when he was babysitting.
He told police that he was walking to the corner market when he noticed Terry was following him.
He said he shouted at Terry to turn around and go home, but he never saw the boy again, police said.
The manager of the market told KTLA that the 16-year-old brother never came into the store on Saturday night.
“He wasn’t at the market. We had checked our surveillance, our cameras, all the video… nothing,” the woman, who did not want to be identified, said.
Terry was not in his room on Sunday morning, according to his family. Police were called to the family home around 10:30 a.m. on Sunday.
Terry, who answered to the nickname “Juju,” was autistic but highly functioning, according to his family.
His disappearance set off an extensive search involving law enforcement personnel and hundreds of volunteers.
Their efforts were coordinated in large part via social media, including a “Find Terry Smith” Facebook page.
Many of the volunteers gathered outside the family home on Thursday night for a prayer vigil. They lit candles and released balloons in tribute to Terry.
Terry’s mother was questioned for several hours and then released, according to investigators. No one else has been charged in connection with the case.
The Smith family released a statement thanking the community for their support. They asked to be given privacy and time to heal.
Anyone with information was asked to call Menifee police at (951) 210-1000 or Riverside County sheriff’s dispatch at (951) 776-1099.