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(CLAYTON, N.J.) — The body that investigators found inside a recycling container in Clayton, N.J., has preliminarily been identified as that of a 12-year-old New Jersey girl who went missing this weekend.

The body was found at about 10 p.m. Monday, according to a statement released by Bernie Weisenfeld, spokesman for the Gloucester County Prosecutor’s Office.  Police have not given the exact location of the recycling container, but indicated that it was not far from Autumn Pasquale’s home.  She was reported missing Saturday night.

“This is a very sad day for the Pasquale family,” Gloucester County Prosecutor Sean F. Dalton said in a statement Tuesday morning.  “Our hearts go out to the family and to all the residents of Clayton who stood together in support of this young girl.”

An autopsy to confirm the body’s identity will be conducted Tuesday morning by the Gloucester County Medical Examiner’s Office.

Weisenfeld said Pasquale’s family has been notified of the discovery, which came a few hours after a candlelight vigil was held for the girl.

Pasquale had been the subject of an extensive search in the past two days that involved about 200 law enforcement personnel and hundreds of volunteers.

Pasquale’s father, Anthony, said he last saw her on Saturday around 12:30 p.m., leaving their home on a white BMX bike.  Her father reported her missing at 9:30 p.m., 90 minutes after her 8 p.m. curfew.

A friend, 11-year-old DeAnna Edwards-McMillen, said Pasquale was at her house Friday night and they exchanged text messages on Saturday, ABC News affiliate WABC-TV reported.

She said she received the last one at 1:22 p.m. and didn’t believe it was intended for her.  She said it read, “Don’t be like that.”

The last known communication was in a text message she sent around 2:30 p.m.  Dalton would not say who received the message or what it contained.  But he said there was nothing alarming or unusual about it.

Dalton said earlier on Monday that investigators accounted for all the registered sex offenders in the area, interviewed them and were searching their properties, according to WABC.

Pasquale would have turned 13 next Monday.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


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