SANTA CRUZ, Calif. (AP) – Prosecutors charged a 15-year-old boy with murder, kidnapping and rape Wednesday in the death of an 8-year-old girl in an artists complex in a California beach town.
Police say Adrian Jerry Gonzalez lured Madyson Middleton into his family’s apartment from a courtyard where she had been riding her scooter over the weekend. Once inside, he tied her up, sexually assaulted and killed her, according a charging document.
Gonzalez remains in custody at the Santa Cruz County juvenile detention center, where he has been held since the girl’s body was found in a recycling bin Monday evening.
“Unfortunately, the search for Maddy ended in the worst way possible,” Santa Cruz District Attorney Jeffrey Rosell said.
He said Gonzalez will be charged as an adult and added that in his two decades in Santa Cruz, he’s never seen a 15-year-old charged with murder.
The charges could send Gonzalez to prison for the rest of his life.
Larry Biggam of the Santa Cruz public defender’s office said he expects to be appointed as the teen’s lawyer at the arraignment Thursday, but he declined to comment on the case.
Authorities haven’t been able to establish a motive in the killing. “People do things for lots of reasons, sometimes we understand it, sometimes we don’t,” Rosell said.
Neighbors at the Tannery Arts Center where both the suspect and Madyson lived said they were stunned by the death. The center is a public-private nonprofit that includes 100 affordable loft apartments for artists and their families. About 250 people live in the complex, including about 50 children.
“It’s a great community because it’s a bit unusual,” Geoffrey Nelson, a photographer and Tannery resident, said. “You share the joys of people, their children growing up. Their art shows, their recitals. But you also share the sorrows.”
Nelson said he’s known Gonzalez for several years and described him as shy, though they often chatted. “He was a yo-yo-expert, so he was oftentimes showing you tricks,” Nelson said.
Residents have been heartbroken to learn that he is suspected in the death, he said.
“It wasn’t somebody from the outside,” Nelson said. “It was somebody we all knew. It was someone we all knew and liked.”
Setorro Garcia, a Tannery resident who knew both the victim and suspect, said Gonzalez had been curious about the investigation.
“He kept asking, ‘Any updates?'” Garcia said.
Another resident, Kirby Scudder, described Madyson as a typical 8-year-old, alternately shy and gregarious.
“She was very smart, and I thought she was going to be an engineer,” he said. “She had a great sense of humor.”
Madyson was headed for fourth grade in the fall.
She had a little, black dog named “Lucy” and tearful children at the Tannery Wednesday placed pictures and notes on a growing memorial overflowing with bouquets, stuffed animals, balloons and candles.
“It was nice how you were so perky,” wrote one.
“We all miss you,” wrote another, next to a picture of the slain girl with wings and a halo.
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