Authorities say 18-year-old Andreas Erazo is charged with first-degree murder in the death of AbbieGail Smith, whose body was discovered behind the Hancock Street Apartments complex in Keansburg, where she lived with her family.
Erazo was arraigned Friday afternoon, and Smith's mother couldn't hold back her emotions as he was walked out.
"You took my only daughter from me, and you can't even look at me?" she said. "I hope you rot in jail."
Smith had last been seen in her apartment around 7:45 p.m. Wednesday and was reported missing about an hour later. Officials say her remains were found with the help of police K-9s, near what is being described as a large container, around 10:45 a.m.
Erazo is said to be an upstairs neighbor. He is also facing weapons charges, and he is due back in court for a detention hearing on July 19.
An autopsy revealed Smith was stabbed once in the throat. Authorities believe the incident happened in or near Erazo's apartment, and they have no reason to believe anyone else was involved. Investigators are now looking into the possibility of a sexual assault.
"This is one of the worst crimes that I've seen as alleged," said Chris Gramiccioni, Monmouth County Prosecutor. "Anytime there's a child victim involved, and we've seen cases like this before at the prosecutor's office, it is truly heinous."
Friends and neighbors in the devastated community turned out for a candlelight vigil in AbbieGail's memory Friday night.
Candlelight vigil for 11-year-old AbbieGail Smith... cops say found murdered behind her Keansburg apartment. pic.twitter.com/lvI00huSD5— CeFaan Kim (@CeFaanKim) July 14, 2017
Area residents also left candles, flowers and other items at a growing memorial at the scene. It is what it looks like to see an entire community's heart break all at once.
"Just really sad. She was one of my closest friends," said Brooklyn Rink, a friend.
The memorial was wet from the rain and tears. They left teddy bears that AggieGail will never get to squeeze and balloons she will never hold.
"I don't know what to say to her, what do you say? She was in school with her," said Lorene Walters, of her daughter.
Keansburg school superintendent John Niesz issued the following statement after the discovery:
The Keansburg School community suffered a tragic loss on July 13, 2017 when Bolger Middle School student AbbieGail Smith age 11 died. It is a very sad day for our school district. The thoughts and prayers of the entire Keansburg School community go out to the Smith family. AbbieGail was a wonderful young girl who was a Titan through and through. She will be greatly missed by the entire Keansburg School District family, especially her friends and teachers.
Keansburg School District will provide grief counselors at Bolger Middle School to help students deal with their thoughts and feelings associated with the loss of AbbieGail.
We wish to extend our deepest sympathy to the family and friends of AbbieGail Smith. Please keep the Smith family in your thoughts and prayers.