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BOY, 15, CHARGED IN SEXUAL ASSAULT, SLAYING OF NEIGHBOR, 11

A 15-year-old boy was charged today with the killing of an 11-year-old neighbor who disappeared while selling merchandise for a school fund-raiser.

The victim was sexually assaulted and strangled in the suspect's home in Jackson Township, Ocean County Prosecutor E. David Millard said.

The suspect was charged with murder and aggravated sexual assault. His name was not released because he is a juvenile.

Edward P. Werner disappeared Saturday, and his body was found late Monday in the woods, where he frequently took a shortcut from his neighborhood to the next, authorities said.

He apparently had no prior contact or relationship with Edward, Millard said. He described the incident as a "chance encounter" and refused to say anything else about a possible motive for the crime.

The suspect is being held in Ocean County Juvenile Detention Center, Millard said, after an initial appearance this morning in Juvenile Court.

At Christa McAuliffe Middle School, where Edward was one of the top sellers in the periodic PTA fund-raisers, some students were so upset Tuesday morning that their parents took them home.

The district also suspended fund-raisers like the one in which Edward had hit the streets in hopes of winning a pair of walkie-talkies for sales of candy, nuts and wrapping paper.

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