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Hearing set in "Juju" Smith murder trial


Last updated 9/17/2013 at Noon

Skylor Atilano, wearing a yellow jumpsuit, made his first court appearance today in Juvenile Court for a hearing to determine whether the 16-year-old would be tried as an adult or a juvenile. Atilano is accused of the murder of his eleven-year-old half-brother, Terry "JuJu" Smith, Jr.

MURRIETA - A hearing to determine whether Skylor Atilano, the 16-year-old Menifee boy accused of killing his younger brother will be tried in juvenile or adult court has been set for Aug. 6, authorities said.

Atilano, who is charged with the murder, was arrested July 10 after the remains of his half brother, 11-year-old Terry Dewayne Smith Jr., were found buried in a shallow grave in the yard of their Helen Lane home.

Terry, nicknamed “Juju”, was reported missing Sunday morning, July 7. Riverside County sheriff’s officials said his older brother was the last person to see him alive, on Saturday night, July 6. Skylor was involved in the search efforts that rallied hundreds of volunteers and emergency workers to try to find the missing boy.

According to courthouse officials, the judge ordered that the teen continue to be held at Juvenile Hall. The proceedings are open to the public because of the nature of the charges against him.

Hearing postponed in Smith murder trial

MURRIETA - Skylor Atilano, wearing a yellow jumpsuit and a blank stare, made his first court appearance today in Juvenile Court at the Southwest Justice Center in French Valley.

Atilano is accused of the murder of his eleven-year-old half-brother, Terry "JuJu” Smith, Jr.

The Sept. 17 hearing was to determine whether 16-year-old Atilano would be tried as an adult or a juvenile. The prosecution requested a postponement of the proceedings until Oct. 23 in order to process more information and provide it to the defense. The public defender agreed to the Oct. 23 postponement and the judge granted the motion. Atilano will remain in detention until that time.

Smith was reported missing Sunday, July 7. A massive four-day search in the heat involved hundreds of law enforcement personnel and volunteers. His body was found July 10 in a shallow grave behind the home in rural Menifee where Smith lived with Atilano, his mother and her partner. Atilano was charged with the murder on July 12.

At the July 15 hearing, the District Attorney’s office had petitioned the court for a section 707 (Welfare and institutions Code) fitness hearing to determine whether a juvenile accused of a serious felony should be tried as an adult.

“The judge will make the determination whether he will be tried in adult court or juvenile court,” said John Hall, Senior Public Information Specialist from The District Attorney’s Office. ”Those proceedings were postponed until October 23. He will be held in detention until that time.”

The judge did not rule on a previous request by the Riverside County Probation Office for a psychological evaluation of Atilano which was objected to by the defense at the July hearing.

The public defender also requested a special visitation for Atilano with his mother, which was granted.


Video by JP Raineri

Teen accused of killing 11-year-old brother to appear in court

MURRIETA - A teenager accused of killing his 11-year-old half brother and burying him in the backyard of their Menifee home is slated to appear for a hearing today at the Southwest Justice Center in Murrieta.

Skylor Atilano, 16, is accused in the July 6 murder of Terry Smith Jr.

Atilano is scheduled to appear for a juvenile detention hearing before Riverside County Superior Court Judge Timothy Freer, who put off the same hearing in July at the request of the boy's attorney.

The District Attorney's Office intends to request that the defendant, who is being held at Southwest Juvenile Hall, be tried as an adult.

He was arrested on July 10 after Terry's remains were located behind his family's single-story home in the 33000 block of Helen Lane.

''This was a domestic issue within that residence,'' sheriff's Capt. John Hill said. ''There was no stranger in the city of Menifee who caused this to happen.''

According to investigators, Atilano initially said he had last seen Terry playing video games the night the youngster went missing. But the 16-year- old later changed his story, indicating he had seen his sibling walking behind him as he headed to a nearby store, whereupon he directed Terry to go back home.

The child was reported to be autistic. However, his father, Terry Smith Sr., flatly denied the claim, suggesting that his ex-wife fabricated the disability to obtain state aid.

Skylor Atilano in Juvenile court. Atilano's attorneys were asking for a postponement of the hearing, to determine whether Atilano will be tried as an adult or not, until Oct. 23rd, which was granted by the judge.

Terry Jr. had lived with his father in West Virginia until 2009, when the elder Smith suffered a breakdown in his health and agreed to let Terry come to California to live with his mother and half-brother and sister.

Terry's death was an emotional blow to the roughly 1,000 volunteers who took part in scouring a 55-square-mile area, looking for the boy. A public memorial service was held on July 25 to remember Terry and recognize the efforts of those who tried to find him.

Volunteers stumbled upon a shallow grave containing partially exposed human remains about 75 feet behind the Smith home in the predawn hours of July 10 and immediately notified deputies. Hill acknowledged that ''multiple searches of the property'' had taken place previously without turning up any clues.

After the discovery, all members of the household were whisked away to the sheriff's Menifee station for questioning. Atilano's arrest was announced about 15 hours later.


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