In his first face-to-face meeting with reporters since arriving from West Virginia, Terry Smith Sr. said today during a press conference in Menifee that he will extend his stay here while awaiting positive identification by the Riverside County Coroner's Office of his son's remains and that he plans to claim custody of the body.
Smith told reporters in a press conference at Wheatfield Park that he plans to stay until at least Aug. 2. He had originally planned to return home this weekend, but he said today he has decided to stay longer while awaiting the coroner's report and release of the body.
The body of a boy matching the description of 11-year-old Terry Smith Jr. was found July 10 buried in a shallow grave on the Menifee property of his mother and Terry Smith Sr's ex-wife, Shawna Smith. Terry Smith Sr. has said previously he has documents proving he has custody of his son and plans to have the body cremated and returned to West Virginia.
A spokesperson for Lakepointe Cremation & Burial in Lake Elsinore confirmed that, with the consent of both parents, the body will be released to that facility when the coroner's report is completed. The spokesperson would not comment on issues regarding custody of the body.
Terry Smith Sr. said he has not shown the coroner documents proving he has custody of Terry Jr., but he said he has all the documents to do so.
Skylor Atilano, Terry Jr's 16-year-old half brother, was arrested on suspicion of the murder and is awaiting a Sept. 17 juvenile detention hearing.
Terry Smith Sr. said he will attend the public memorial service for his son Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at Lamb's Fellowship in Lake Elsinore. He said he plans to shake the hand of as many Menifee residents and volunteers who searched for Terry Jr. as possible.
"I know they're calling it a memorial," Smith said. "But Terry liked picnics. I want this to be one big picnic. I want it to be a celebration of Terry's life."