MENIFEE, Calif. (KTLA) — The father of 11-year-old Terry Smith, now presumed dead, spoke out on Thursday, saying he feared the worst when his son went missing.
Terry Smith Sr., who lives in West Virginia, said that Terry Jr. was a typical boy, with a loving personality and an affinity for baseball.
He also insisted that, contrary to reports, his son did not have autism.
“The autistic… No. If you talk to anybody back here that knows Terry Jr., they all tell you you’re crazy,” Smith said.
Smith, who is twice-divorced from Terry’s mom, said that his son lived with him in West Virginia until he was 8 years old.
Then, after a trip to see his mother and a visit to Disneyland, he asked if he could live with her in Menifee.
But recently, Terry, who went by the nickname “Juju,” had told his dad that he was not happy and wanted to move back, his father said.
The family was trying to arrange for Terry to fly back to West Virginia, but on Sunday, the boy’s mother called with disturbing news, Smith said.
“She called me Sunday and told me he was missing. Just her tone of voice… I knew something was wrong… really wrong,” Smith said.”
The longer he was gone, the more I knew there was more to the story than met the eye,” he said.
On Wednesday morning, at around 1 a.m., investigators found human remains in the yard of the family’s home, located in the 38000 block of Helen Lane.
Police interviewed family members and arrested a 16-year-old on suspicion of murder.
The accused relative, who has not been identified by police, had been violent with Terry and other relatives in the past, according to Smith.
Terry’s mother told him the teen had been sneaking out, and the boys “got into it” when the 11-year-old tried to follow him, Smith said.
“She didn’t go any further than that, but as soon as she said him and [name omitted] got into it, I knew they wouldn’t find Terry Jr. alive,” he said.
Smith said he wanted his son’s final wishes to come home to West Virginia to be honored.
He said he wanted to come out to Southern California to bring Terry’s remains home himself, but that he did not have the money to do so.