A 15-year-old boy has been charged as an adult with murder in the death of 8-year-old Madyson “Maddy” Middleton in Santa Cruz, the district attorney said Wednesday.
Adrian Jerry Gonzalez of Santa Cruz faces one count of murder with the special circumstance that he kidnapped and sexually assaulted Maddy, Santa Cruz County District Attorney Jeffrey Rosell said Wednesday. He is also accused of lying in wait.
He has also been charged with one count of kidnapping and other sexual assault-related offenses, he said. If convicted of the charges, he faces life in prison, Rosell said.
“We have charged this individual as an adult for which the crimes he is responsible for,” he said. “We are going to bring him to justice.”
Gonzalez is expected to appear in a Santa Cruz courtroom Thursday. He is being housed in a juvenile detention facility. Rosell declined to comment on details about the crime, saying further information would come out as the case proceeds in the court system.
“People do things for lots of reasons,” Rosell said. “Sometimes we understand them, sometimes we don’t.”
In deciding whether to charge the teenager as an adult, prosecutors looked at his age, his criminal record, the nature of the crime and how the offense was committed, Rosell said. Rosell declined to say whether Gonzalez had a criminal history.
“We are confident in the charges we filed,” he said. “Justice demands the charges that we filed, and we filed them appropriately.”
Police believe Maddy was killed before they started searching for her Sunday evening.
Maddy was last seen about 5:05 p.m. Sunday on surveillance video that captured her riding her scooter in the sprawling Tannery Arts Center on River Street. She and the boy both lived at the center, a mixed-used creative space providing affordable housing to artists.
Her disappearance prompted a frantic search, and FBI investigators went door-to-door looking for clues. The massive manhunt drew volunteers from among the dozens of printmakers, ceramicists and other artists who live in the housing complex.
A little more than 24 hours after she disappeared, at 7:55 p.m. Monday, a Santa Cruz police detective discovered Maddy’s body at the bottom of the recycling bin, which had already been searched once by volunteers.
Investigators saw the boy standing near the bin, Vogel said, and police believe he was watching them as they searched.
The boy was detained and later arrested. Police said they have evidence tying him directly to Maddy.
Residents at the eight-acre complex mourning Maddy’s death said they were stunned to learn another resident was suspected in the killing.
“We’re just devastated. These are two of our kids, and one is dead and one has been taken away. And it’s horrible. It’s just horrible,” said resident Yasmina Porter, whose children, ages 11 and 13, played with both the victim and the suspect.
“From the community’s standpoint, we mostly feel like these are our babies,” Porter said. “This is the most horrible thing you can imagine.”
Denise Kiser Shaw said was taking a class Sunday afternoon and remembered seeing Maddy.
“The children are out like little butterflies,” Shaw said. “It’s a contained area … it’s like, OK, you stay here in the courtyard and you ride around and you wait for your friend.”
On Tuesday afternoon, Shaw was in that same courtyard, finishing up a doll for Maddy’s mom. The doll, which had wings, wore a purple dress, just like Maddy had been wearing, and had the words “I can fly home” printed on it.