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Search continues for missing south Jersey girl

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CLAYTON, N.J. — About 100 law enforcement officials and hundreds of volunteers searched Monday for a southern New Jersey girl who has not been seen since she rode her bike from her home Saturday afternoon.

Volunteers handed out fliers and looked in area malls while officials have used helicopters, bloodhounds and horses to try to find 12-year-old Autumn Pasquale. The search is around Clayton, a small town in the rural area at the southeastern edge of Philadelphia's suburbs.

Paul Spadafora, an uncle of Autumn's father, said the girl told her family she was going to meet a friend Saturday before pedaling away on her white BMX bike around 12:30 p.m.

The family became concerned when she wasn't home by her 8 p.m. curfew and called police an hour and a half later, said Spadafora, who also is Autumn's godfather.

Spadafora said he was frustrated with the initial police reaction of treating the case as a runaway instead of one commanding a swift and comprehensive search. But he said he believed that police have done all they can since ramping up the search on Sunday.

Bernie Weisenfeld, a spokesman for the Gloucester County Prosecutor's Office, said that by Monday, 100 law enforcement officials from 18 local, state and federal agencies had joined the search.

Spadafora, acting as a family spokesman, said his great-niece, whose 13th birthday is Oct. 29, is a happy kid who enjoys riding her bike, roller skating and getting ice cream with friends at a shop in Clayton. She never rode too far from home, Spadafora said.

He said she lives in Clayton with her father, her two siblings, her father's girlfriend and the girlfriend's children. He said her mother lives in Cherry Hill.

Spadafora said the girl had a cellphone with her, but has not been reached since she left Saturday.

Weisenfeld said her bicycle has not been located.

Spadafora said he fears foul play but wants his great-niece to know if she ran away that she'll be welcomed home "with no questions asked."

Gloucester County Prosecutor Sean Dalton scheduled a 2 p.m. news conference on the search.