Shawna Smith, mother of Terry Smith Jr., 11, told reporters that she is standing by her older son, Skylor, even though he is charged with Terry's murder. Shawna also said that she had received death threats and accusations of being involved in the murder, despite being cleared by police.
"I'm not going to say he's innocent, but I'm not going to say he's guilty either," Shawna told NBC. "I love him. I'm going to stand behind him no matter what."
Skylor, 16, is charged with the murder of his half-brother, Terry. The case drew national attention because Terry was reportedly autistic and had been sent home by his older brother after following him to a friend's house. Yet Terry's body was found buried in a shallow grave behind the family's home.
Prosecutors want to charge Skylor as an adult given that he has a history of violent outbursts and violated the terms of his probation. However, officials refused to comment on exactly what led to Skylor being on probation in the first place. He is being kept in a juvenile detention facility until his hearing in September, when a judge will rule whether he will be tried as an adult or a juvenile.
"He was a very bright, well-adjusted child, at least he was when he left here," Terry Smith Sr. told NBC. "He pushed buttons and would try to aggravate you, but other than that, it was just the typical way… of a typical boy trying to get his way. Him and Skylor got into it and it went too far," he thought.
The one other child in Shawna Smith's home has been removed from her custody, which has left her devastated.
"It doesn't make my life easier," Shawna said. "It makes it 20 times harder. My kids were my life. They still are. I love all three of them."
The case devastated the Menifee, California area where the family lives. Over 1,000 volunteers turned out to search for Terry Jr., and they were greatly saddened when his body was found.