This story was first published at 12:07 p.m. July 12, and updated at 4:52 p.m.
The father of the 11-year-old Menifee boy now feared to be dead after human remains fitting his description were found Wednesday said he will make every effort to bring his son’s ashes home.
The DA’s Office is requesting that the juvenile court conduct a hearing to determine whether Skylor’s case should be handled in adult court. The first hearing in juvenile court, scheduled for Monday, July 15, is called a detention hearing, not an arraignment, according to the DA's office.
Terry Dewayne Smith Jr.—who had the nickname of “JuJu” since birth because his sister had trouble saying Junior—was reported missing Sunday, July 7 from the Helen Lane home where he lived with his mother, her partner, his 13-year-old half-sister and Skylor.
A massive search effort for the boy was launched, involving law enforcement and countless volunteers.
Smith said he first heard Terry Jr. was missing when the boy’s mother, Shawna Smith, called him on Sunday to ask if he was in town.
Smith lives in Charleston, West Virginia and told Patch he has legal custody of Terry Jr.
He said he kept up on the search effort through Facebook, relatives and friends of the family.
Through one conversation, he said he learned there may have been a fight between the two boys. The two were reportedly left home together the night of Saturday, July 6, according to Riverside County sheriff’s officials.
Smith believes Skylor was angry with Terry Jr. because he would be able to return to his father in West Virginia. But because they had different fathers, it wasn’t so cut and dry for Skylor.
“There was a very deep-seated anger there. It was a time bomb waiting to go off,” said Smith, adding that family members had experienced his alleged aggressive behavior.
Smith said he’d raised the older boy from the time he was 18 months old until he was 7.
Terry Jr. lived with him until he was 8, he said.
“Me and (Shawna) made an agreement, had it notarized and turned into the court that he (Terry Jr.) could go out there (California) as long as I was able to keep up on visits and phone calls,” Smith said. “I last talked to him a few months ago, just before school was out and he said he wanted to come home for good.”
Smith said it was agreed that he would pay for Terry Jr.’s plane ticket once school let out, but that call never came.
Then early Wednesday, partially-buried human remains were discovered on the Helen Lane property in Menifee.
As of Friday morning, coroner’s officials have yet to confirm the remains were those of Terry Jr., though Menifee police Chief John Hill said during a news conference Wednesday “they fit the description.”
Smith said he submitted DNA through a state trooper’s office in West Virginia. He was told the DNA would be used to help identify his son.
“I went right down there,” Smith said.
At 62 years old, Smith said his fear when Terry Jr. was born was that he wouldn’t live to see him grow up.
“But now the good Lord took him home, so that fear is no longer there,” Smith said.
Smith said he still considers Skylor his son, explaining that Terry Jr. came from a family of five brothers and sisters.
“As far as I am concerned he is my son and I’m his dad and it will always be that way,” Smith said of the older boy.
“I’ve always been the stay-at-home-dad,” Smith said. “Some may say I spoil them but I am just showing them love.”
Smith said the 16-year-old has been a victim of circumstances. He was not 100 percent sure, but said he thinks he recalled hearing the boy was on probation. For what, he did not know.
“Nobody understands the hell that child has been through.”
Menifee neighbors paint a slightly different picture.
Heather Blume, 37, manages Menifee Market, located next door to the home where the 11-year-boy lived with his half brother. The Menifee resident said she would see the family almost daily and described them as generally to themselves, adding that Terry was “an old soul, kind and very quiet.”
She described Terry’s half-brother as an introvert who may have had “some problems,” but said she never saw him hurt his siblings.
Dallal Harb, 31, owns Menifee Market with her husband. The neighborhood store is situated in the semi-rural western Menifee community that’s dotted with ranchettes and manufactured homes.
Harb was the carpool mom who took Terry home from school everyday. He would come into the store for a snack and drink, she said.
“He would go to the counter, and I would tell him, ‘Those are yours [the snacks],’ and he wouldn’t leave until we told him it was ok,” Harb said. “He was the sweetest kid ever. I’m just heartbroken.”
Harb said she never saw anything out of the ordinary regarding the family that included Terry’s mom Shawna and her girlfriend, a 16-year-old son who is a half-brother to Terry, as well as a sister believed to be between the ages of the two boys.
Harb’s house is on the same parcel as her market. She and her husband have lived on the two-and-half-acre property for 16 years, she said. She never saw anything unusual.
“They are a nice family,” she continued, estimating that Shawna and the kids moved in about seven years ago.
“She is a very good mom, a nice mom,” she added.
Editor's Note: According to a written statement from the Riverside County District Attorney's Office, by law, because of the charge of murder, all court proceedings in this case—unless and until specified by the judge—are open to the media and the public.
More Coverage on the Terry Smith Story:
- Have You Seen This Boy? He is at Risk
- Hundreds of Volunteers Fan Out in Search for Missing Autistic Boy in Menifee
- Volunteers, Authorities Searching Through the Night for Missing Menifee Boy
- VIDEO: No Leads In Case Of Missing Autistic Boy, Police Chief Says
- UPDATED: 16-Year-Old Family Member of Missing Boy Arrested on Suspicion of Murder
- Teen Suspected of Killing His Little Brother
- Volunteer: No Regrets in Massive Search Effort for Terry Smith
- Crowd Releases Balloons In Memory Of Terry 'JuJu' Smith
- Community Mourns Menifee Boy With Vigil After Human Remains Discovered
- KTLA: Woman’s ‘Intuition’ Helps Find Missing Boy’s Body
- Positive Identification on Boy's Remains Still Pending