'No Punishment Exists...That Can Mend My Broken Heart," Says Mom - New York News

'No Punishment Exists...That Can Mend My Broken Heart," Says Pasquale's Mom

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Supporters of the Pasquale family Supporters of the Pasquale family
Autumn Autumn
Justin receives 17 years without parole Justin receives 17 years without parole
CLAYTON, N.J. -

There was a big turn-out in Woodbury, New Jersey today for Justin Robinson's sentencing. A judge gave him 17 years in prison for killing 12-year-old Autumn Pasquale in Clayton last year.

For strangling Autumn Pasquale and dumping her in a recycling bin, admittedly over bike parts, Justin Robinson took a plea deal and got 17 years in prison. There were mixed emotions at the court house and the family and community struggled to define justice and closure.

"No punishment exists for the defendant that can mend my broken heart," said Jennifer Cornwall. "It has been said that time heals all wounds. I do not agree."

Sharing a mother's anguish, Jennifer Cornwall spoke to the judge about Justin's punishment for strangling her daughter.

"I think it's a very gracious gift that the defendant does not deserve[.] Her next birthday, high school, college, career, a wedding, [A]utumn was denied those gifts by the defendant," she said.

"I believe the defendant deserves more than 17 years. I believe he doesn't deserve a life sentence; I believe he doesn't deserve to live. I believe his fate should be nothing less than death," said Anthony Pasquale, Autumn's father. "In the midst of the search for Autumn sat her murderer, Justin Robinson. He even came to a candlelight vigil."

Autumn's father Anthony left the courtroom to an outburst of applause from a supportive Clayton community. They showed their support with signs and shirts.

"I don't think it's fair. I don't think it's enough," said a neighbor.

"I think it sends a message of what you can do today and get away with. You do jail and then you get out and have a life," remarked Rick Vernacchio, another supporter of the Pasquale family.

Autumn's grandmother was an elementary school teacher. Justin was one of her students.

"And I wanted the same for Justin, her murderer," she said, "for him to have the best future he could have just as I wanted for my granddaughter. I could never have a rapport with a student again. It's just impossible, Impossible."

Lawyers for Autumn's family said that the family got legal closure today, but emotionally it makes not difference.

"Whether the defendant gets 30 years without parole or 13 years, five months and five days without parole, they're just numbers. Nothing is going to fill that void," Jamie Keigh said. "Simply put, no amount of time will ever bring back a lost life."

Autumn's family and friends spoke on her behalf in court, but so did her killer and his mother.

Justin's mother painted a very different picture. She said she's sad for Autumn's family, but she also argued that her boy is not a monster and what happened that day was mischaracterized by the press.

"My Justin is not a monster," she said. "He is a 16-year-old boy, born with a physical disability. He's both emotionally and developmentally disabled. He's a respectful loving child with a sense of humor.

Justin Robinson also didn't sit silently.

"I would first like to say that I'm sorry that any of this happened that it was all a big mistake," he told the courtroom.

The damage is done, and the Clayton community will not be the same again, according to neighbors.

"It's kind of devastated our community. Kids don't want to go outside," said one neighbor.

"This comes home with me. I don't leave here and forget about it with me," said another.

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