MENIFEE (CBSLA.com) — Family and friends of an 11-year-old murder victim held a vigil Sunday in Menifee on the one year anniversary of his death.
The entire community came together a year ago to help search for missing Terry Smith Jr. Many of the 1,400 who took part in searching for the boy also attended the vigil.
His body would be found several days later, buried in the backyard of his home. His stepbrother, Skylor Atilano, is at a juvenile facility accused of the murder.
Today, Smith family wanted to remember the happy boy who was always smiling. They called him Juju.
CBS2’s Greg Mills attended the vigil.
It’s been a torturous year for Smith’s mother, Shawna.
“No parent really wants to bury a child,” she said to Mills.
Her other son is accused of the murder.
“He’s still my child. I still love him. I’m standing behind him 100 percent” she said of Skylor.
Terry Smith, a boy who had autism, disappeared without a trace. Hundreds came out to look for him. His stepbrother also took part in the search.
Terry’s sister spoke to Mills.
“I think about him every day. And I miss him like crazy. It breaks my heart that he isn’t around anymore,” said the sister.
Shawna’s partner runs a dog grooming business out of their home and Terry would often come by to check out the dogs.
“As I would groom dogs,” Dennise Bugna said, “He would say, ‘And who is this little cutie? I’ve never seen this one before.'”
At the vigil, balloons were released.
Mills also spoke to some of the people, strangers to the boy, who helped searched.
“If something positive could come from this,” said one woman, “it’s that our community came together.”