|Terry Dewayne Smith Sr. and his son Terry Jr. are seen here in a photo from Terry Sr's Facebook page. |
The father of the boy found buried on the property of his mother's Menifee home said today that he plans to arrive in California Friday and will claim his son's body as soon as possible. He also accused his ex-wife of hindering the coroner's efforts to positively identify the body to prepare it for release.
Speaking in an exclusive phone interview with Menifee 24/7, Terry Smith Sr. said from his home in Charleston, W. Va. that he has full custody of 11-year-old Terry Smith Jr. and that he plans to have the body cremated and returned to West Virginia for burial in a cemetery behind the apartment complex where he lives. Before that, however, he plans to have a memorial service in Menifee.
"We will have a big memorial service in Menifee," Smith said. "I want to meet and greet everybody out there and let them know they are not going to be forgotten."
Smith may have a battle in gaining custody of the body. He said his ex-wife Shawna Smith told him in a phone conversation that she will not let him take the boy back to West Virginia, where he lived with his father until 2011. Futhermore, he claims she is not releasing to the coroner's office dental records to help with the identification.
"The coroner called me," he said. "The lady told me Shawna's not telling them where the dental work is at."
Sgt. Curt James of the Riverside County Coroner's Office told Menifee 24/7 that the identification process of the body thought to be that of Terry Smith Jr. is being given "top priority."
"We are actively pursuing it," he said about efforts to positively identify the body. He had no comment about Terry Smith's claims regarding the dental records and could not estimate how long it could take to release the coroner's report.
Shawna Smith could not be reached for comment. On Monday, she declined to speak to reporters following a detention hearing for her son Skylor Atilano, 16, who has been accused of the murder. Menifee 24/7 left a message with her through the Facebook group Faithful Servants, which has had contact with her, but Shawna did not respond.
Terry Smith and Shawna Smith have been divorced twice. Shawna lives in Menifee with her partner, Denise Bugna, her daughter Mary Atilano and her son Skylor Atilano. Skylor, Terry Jr's half brother, was arrested last Wednesday for the murder of Terry Jr., whose body was found buried in a shallow grave on the Smith's property.
Terry Smith Sr. said he has documents proving he has full custody of Terry Jr. and that he will take them to the Riverside County Coroner's office upon his arrival here to claim the body. He said Shawna has already warned him that won't happen.
"She said there's no way I'm going to get her baby boy," Smith said. "And I flat out told her, 'Oh, now you're gonna fight me.' I have proof that she never even once tried to get Terry Jr. in the divorce. Not once. And the only reason she got full custody of Mary is she said, 'You give me full custody of Mary and I'll give you full custody of Junior."
Terry Smith Sr. said he married Shawna when she was pregnant with Mary from another man, but that his name is on Mary's birth certificate and that he raised her as his own child until she moved to California with her mother and Skylor a few years ago.
Terry Smith Sr. said he knew soon after allowing Terry Jr. to visit his mother in Menifee in 2011 that she might not return him.
"I never relinquished custody of Terry," Terry Smith Sr. said. "All I did was a hand-held paper, and it never went to court. On that paper, I was supposed to get my visits and my phone calls. Then she cut me off from my phone calls and all that.
"He wanted to go out there to live. I had a feeling that eventually the Disneyland and everything would fade away, and he'd realize what's going on. I know what she did to Skylor and I know what she's done to Mary and I knew sooner or later she was gonna start pulling things with Terry Junior -- especially when I heard all this about her saying he's autistic and everything. She was just trying to get a check."
Smith said Terry Jr. called him "a few months back," begging to come home.
"He told me, 'Dad, I want to come home. I'm tired of being treated like a half brother, being left alone.' Shawna got upset when I told her. She said, 'He's got to finish school first.' I said, 'OK, Shawna, as soon as he's out of school, call me. I'll get a plane ticket and I'll be there.' "
According to Terry Smith Sr., Shawna Smith never told him when Terry Jr. was out of school.
Terry Smith Sr. said he knows nothing about a memorial service at Revival Church this Saturday that was announced on the Facebook page Faithful Servants on Monday. A spokesperson for Faithful Servants messaged Menifee 24/7 on Facebook saying there is now some confusion on whether that event will be open to the public.
Terry Smith Sr. says that regardless of that event, he will prove his custody of Terry Jr. to authorities and will plan his own memorial service for the people of Menifee before taking the boy home to West Virginia.
There, he said, the boy will be cremated and his ashes will be buried in the cemetery near his home, with a plaque including a mention of the volunteers who tried so hard to find him after he was reported missing by his mother.
"There will be some mention about Menifee and all the people who helped try to find him and had their hearts broken," Smith said.