Clayton's awful morning

Clayton, NJ woke up to a broken heart Tuesday, as news spread that a freckle-faced girl named Autumn Pasquale would not be coming home.  

The 12-year-old middle school student, who had been missing for three days, was found dead in a curbside recycling container in an East Clayton Avenue neighborhood late Monday night.

By 6 a.m. Tuesday the TV at the Liberty Diner blazed with the words “Body Found,” and waitress Ellie Yardim turned away from her regulars, riveted by the awful news. “I’ll be teary eyed all day long,” she said. “They should hang the guy that did it,” Tony Barilaro, one of her customers, declared.

At the Acme just north of the diner on Delsea Drive, two women sat in adjacent cars with the windows down, crying softly together in the dark parking lot. And from behind the counter at the nearby Heritage's, Diana Sandone said, "this isn't something you expect in a little hometown like this."

 “It's crazy. I live right here, and they found the body over there,” said James House, standing on East Clayton. “My son Ian goes to school with [Autumn],” House, an ironworker, said. “This really hits home.”

Outside borough hall on Delsea Drive, parents cried, children sobbed, and Mayor Tom Bianco was visibly moved as about 100 people gathered to console each other and themselves.

 Residents of the Gloucester County borough and nearby communities had been searching en masse for Autumn since Saturday;  but onTuesday morning, hope gave way to grief.