|Investigators work behind forensic vehicles to remove what appear to be human remains from the back yard of a missing Menifee boy. |
Police have not confirmed that the remains are human or that they are of Terry Dewayne Smith Jr. However, the boy's father told Menifee 24/7 today that a detective informed him that the remains are likely those of his son.
"They told me they had found a shallow grave with the remains of a young man in it," Smith said in a phone interview from his home in Charleston, West Virginia. "I asked it if was Terry and they said they believe so, but it's not written in stone yet. Then they asked me for any DNA or dental work for Terry.
"I have come to the realization that it's Terry."
Smith remains in West Virginia, saying he was advised by West Virginia State Police to stay at home at this time and care for his two minor children. This advice, he said, was given after West Virginia police examined previous court records related to his divorce and child custody battle with the boy's mother, Shawna (also known as Bekkah) Smith.
For reasons that have not yet been reported, police arrived at the Smith home at about 1:30 a.m. to search for evidence. By 7 a.m., news vans were on scene and the entire block of Helen Lane at Scott Road was roped off by police. Helicopters hovered overhead.
By 9 a.m., police and forensic teams entered the back yard of the residence -- manufactured housing on a large lot including goats and dogs. Police vans pulled up in front of a pepper tree in the back yard, blocking the media's view as they removed items to place in evidence bags. Around 10:45, police reported they had served a search warrant at the residence and were removing "possible human remains."
Police have not named any suspects in the case. Terry's mother lives at the home with her son, 16-year-old Skylor Atilano, 14-year-old daughter, Mary Atilano, and her live-in partner.
A hectic scene in front of the Menifee Market turned from one of volunteer command center to a gathering spot for residents praying and seeking news. A helicopter news camera showed what appeared to be a body bag being removed from a shallow grave under a pepper tree, loaded into a van and removed from the site.
Hundreds of volunteer searchers and police rescue teams had searched for more than three days for Terry, who originally was reported as missing Sunday morning and was reported by his mother as being autistic. Two of his former teachers and his father have disputed that. Others who know the family have said there was never any report of Terry having autism until family members reported him missing.