Menifee Juvenile Admits to Voluntary Manslaughter

The 17-year-old accused in the death of his half brother Terry Smith Jr. in Menifee in July 2013 admitted today to the crime of voluntar...

The 17-year-old accused in the death of his half brother Terry Smith Jr. in Menifee in July 2013 admitted today to the crime of voluntary manslaughter and will serve up to six years in a juvenile detention facility.

Skylor Atilano's admission is the equivalent of a guilty plea in adult court. He was sentenced to 12 years by judge Timothy F. Freer, but a defendant sentenced in juvenile court cannot be held past the age of 23. He could be free in as little as four years following a probationary hearing and review, according to John Hall of the Riverside County District Attorney's Office.

Seated in plain clothes next to his attorney, Atilano (right) quietly answered the judge's questions, saying he understood the terms of the plea bargain. Voluntary manslaughter, a felony count in this case, was defined by Freer as a crime committed "without malice in the heat of an argument."

Atilano said at the time that he left for a friend's house on the night of July 6, 2013 and never saw his half brother again. According to Hall, details of the investigation will not be disclosed because it's a juvenile case.

The prosecution wanted to stipulate that both parents were aware of the plea bargain and are in support of it. Terry Smith Sr., who lives in West Virginia, was not in the court room. His ex-wife, Shawna Smith, was seated in the court room but chose not to make a statement, according to the prosecutor.

Hall said Atilano will be transferred to a juvenile detention facility at a location not determined at this time. He will receive medical and mental treatment and was ordered to pay a restitution fine of $200, submit a DNA sample and carry no firearms before the age of 30. He will carry a first-strike felony offense.

The judge allowed Atilano to receive visits from his mother. He does not receive credit for time served over the last year, Hall said. Hall also said the criminal case is officially closed. There is no ongoing investigation and no other suspects, he said.

Outside the courthouse, Shawna Smith and her live-in partner Dennise Bugna briefly answered reporters' questions before walking away. Asked if she was surprised by the plea, Shawna Smith said no, that she was aware of the plea bargain. She then simply said she was "heartbroken" and walked away from reporters in tears. Smith insisted she did not know what really happened a year ago.

Bugna said she also has no explanation for what happened that July day in 2013, when 11-year-old Terry Smith Jr. disappeared four days before his body was found buried in the family's back yard on Helen Lane in Menifee. Police said they searched that yard following the boy's disappearance, but that's where he turned up four days later in a shallow grave.

"All I can tell you is it's my house and I know my house and property," Bugna said. "That body was not there during those few days."

Terry Smith Sr. has filed a wrongful death suit against Bugna and Shawna Smith, accusing them of gross negligence in leaving Terry Smith Jr. alone in the care of Atilano the night of his disappearance.


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