MENIFEE (CBSLA.com) — The father of an 11-year-old Menifee boy who police said was killed by his half-brother is fighting for custody of his son’s body.
Terry Smith Sr. came from West Virginia to the Southland to take Terry Jr. home, two weeks after the boy’s body was found buried in a shallow grave in the backyard of his mother’s home.
“Due to the nature of my conversation with Terry Jr. when he said he wanted to come home, he told me himself that he was tired of being treated as a half,” said Terry Sr.
The father, however, is locked in a battle with his ex-wife, Terry Jr.’s mother, over custody of the youngster’s body.
Terry Sr. told CBS2’s Adrianna Weingold that Terry Jr. only lived in Menifee with his ex-wife for the past two years and had planned on moving back to West Virginia after school got out.
“I said to (my ex), ‘I’m just asking you to back off Terry’s body so I can bring him back home.’ And she said, ‘You’re not getting my baby’s body.’ And honestly, I’m not trying to bash my ex or anything else, but her exact words were, ‘You’re not getting my baby.’ And my remarks to her were, ‘Oh, now you’re going to finally claim him?’” he said.
Meantime, Terry Jr.’s half-brother, 16-year-old Skylor Atilano, has been charged with murder. Terry Sr. said detectives told him Terry Jr. died after being hit in the head with a rock.
The father doesn’t believe Atilano acted alone.
“Wholeheartedly, yeah, I don’t think that Terry Jr. wound up under that tree just by Skylor, and I won’t believe it,” he said.
Terry Sr. has planned a public tribute for Terry Jr. to thank everyone involved in the search for his son.
The service will be held Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at Lamb’s Fellowship in Lake Elsinore.
“I know they’re calling it a memorial, but Terry Jr. loved picnics. This is one big picnic for everyone that helped search for him…that has been touched by him…it’s open to everybody,” Terry Sr. said.