This post was originally published at 3:48 p.m. and updated at 5:26 p.m.
The half-brother of 11-year-old Terry Dewayne Smith Jr. of Menifee, now believed to be dead, will remain in custody at least until Sept. 17, a Murrieta judge ruled Monday.
Skylor Atilano, 16, who the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office has filed a murder charge against in the case, appeared in court Monday afternoon at Southwest Detention Center for a detention hearing, meant to determine whether the boy should stay in custody.
On Monday, the mother of the two boys looked on as Skylor was ushered into the courtroom by bailiffs and seated next to his public defender.
At the request of Skylor’s public defense team, the hearing was postponed until Sept. 17.
However Riverside Riverside County Superior Court Judge Timothy Freer made an interim ruling—which Skylor agreed to—that in the meantime the teen would remain in custody at the nearby juvenile detention center until the Sept. 17 hearing.
The ruling was “for the juvenile’s safety as well as the safety of the community,” said John Hall, spokesman for the DA’s office, noting that the judge’s decision also had to do with a previous offense or offense for which Skylor was on probation. Hall declined to elaborate on the previous charge or charges.
Also on Monday, the probation department asked for a psychological evaluation of the boy.
The defense objected, and Judge Freer struck down that motion.
The probation department will need to request that evaluation again when the hearing takes place Sept. 17, Hall explained.
Additionally, a decision on whether Skylor will be tried as an adult or juvenile has yet to be made.
“We have requested this hearing—called a 707 hearing—so the judge will determine whether this case will stay in the juvenile court or be tried in regular court,” Hall told reporters who gathered outside the courthouse following Monday’s hearing.
Hall said that decision will most likely not be made until after the Sept. 17 hearing.
“We feel based on the evidence we have at this point in this case it would just be better for the judge to make the decision in this case,” Hall said.
Outside the courthouse Monday was a small group of Skylor’s friends who said they came to show their support for him.
Miguel Diaz, 15, said he is a good friend of Skylor’s who attended school with him at Paloma Valley High School in Menifee.
Although Miguel said he had never met Terry, he helped Skylor search for him.
“I believe that the circumstances here don’t add up,” Miguel said. “From what I believe from knowing Skylor, this just doesn’t add up. I wouldn’t just come out here based off a hunch, it is a really strong feeling.
“There was no way he was capable of doing this by himself,” Miguel said. “It takes a certain type of person to hide a body for four days...”
Another friend of Skylor’s, Kira Nichols, 16, said seeing Skylor in court was heartbreaking for her.
“He is an amazing person,” Kira said, adding that Skylor always had a smile on his face. She has known him since middle school, she said.
“There is no way he could do this just by himself...it was not him, it couldn’t have been just him,” Kira said.
Sheriff’s officials said all members of the household were taken in for questioning the day the remains were discovered by a citizen volunteer; as a result of those interrogations, Skylor was arrested on suspicion of murder.
According to investigators, Skylor initially said he had last seen
Terry Saturday evening, July 6, playing video games at the Helen Lane
home in Menifee where the two boys lived with their mother, her partner
and a sister.
But the 16-year-old later changed his story,
according to investigators, indicating he had seen his sibling walking
behind him as he headed to a nearby store Saturday night, whereupon he
directed Terry to go back home.
Roughly 1,000 volunteers took part in scouring an 81-square-mile, multi-city area, looking for the victim.
Early on July 10, investigators recovered what were determined to be partially-exposed human remains fitting Terry’s description from a shallow grave on the semi-rural Helen Lane property, just steps from the Menifee Market where volunteer searchers had manned a makeshift command post.
Editor’s Note: The outcome of these allegations, as well as the facts, may change as the case progresses through the legal system. Not all details of each investigation are made public. All items are alleged to have occurred. There should be no assumption of guilt.
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
- Teen Charged With Killing Little Brother; Father Speaks Out