The mother of a boy who went missing in Menifee, Calif. - and was later found dead - told NBC4 on Wednesday she stood behind her other son, who was charged with the boy's murder.
Shawna Smith had not given a public statement since her 11-year-old son Terry Smith's body was found July 10, three days after he was reported missing. Shawna Smith's 16-year-old son, Skylor Atilano, was charged with Terry's murder.
Shawna Smith exclusively told NBC4's Tony Shin that she has received death threats, and people have accused her of being involved in Terry's death despite being cleared by police.
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She said Child Protective Services has taken away her daughter.
"It doesn't make my life easier," she said. "It makes it 20 times harder. ... My kids were my life. They still are. I love all three of them."
Smith denied she was involved in her son's death, and said Atilano never mentioned anything to her about it. She said she took a polygraph test and passed.
When asked if she believes one of her sons could have killed his half-brother, she said she wouldn't say either way.
"I'm not going to say he's innocent, but I'm not going to say he's guilty either," she said. "I love him and I'm going to stand behind him no matter what."
Terry had been reported missing Sunday, July 7, by Shawna Smith, who said the boy had autism, a diagnosis disputed by his father in West Virginia.
Authorities announced a body was found at the home on Wednesday, July 10, bringing an end to the massive search and devastating hundreds of search volunteers.
Hundreds of search volunteers were devastated when a body was found in a shallow grave early Wednesday behind the home where both boys lived with their mother and her partner.
The Riverside County District Attorney's office is trying to prosecute Atilano as an adult in the case. A judge was expected to rule on that in September.