SANTA CRUZ, Calif. (AP) — A 15-year-old boy pleaded not guilty Monday in the kidnapping and killing of an 8-year-old girl at the tight-knit artist community where they both lived.
Adrian Jerry Gonzalez is being charged as an adult in the death of Madyson Middleton. Police say Gonzalez lured Madyson into his family’s apartment. An autopsy shows that she died of asphyxiation and stab wounds to the neck. He’s also accused of sexually assaulting the girl.
Both of them lived at the Tannery Arts Center, a housing complex for artists and their families in the beach town of Santa Cruz. Madyson was reported missing July 26 and hundreds of volunteers turned out to search for her.
Police twice conducted a door-to-door search of the entire apartment complex, as well as a homeless shelter across the street. Helicopters scanned the forest and the coastline, and the Coast Guard surveyed the ocean 2 miles from where she was last seen.
Her body was discovered inside a recycling bin the night of July 27.
The death hit the laid-back surfing destination hard. Flags were lowered to half-staff and hand-written signs popped up in storefronts and on light posts in honor of the girl.
At an event for Madyson, her mother, Laura Jordan, hugged Gonzalez’s mother and said she doesn’t fault her for Madyson’s death.
Jordan said her daughter was energetic and active. She loved to dance, run and play. She also loved animals, especially wolves.
Public defender Larry Biggam told reporters at Gonzalez’s first court appearance that his job is to “review the evidence, conduct our own investigation and make sure that the minor, like every citizen accused, receives a fair trial.”
Gonzalez was ordered to re-appear in court on Oct. 29.
If found guilty of all counts, he faces a maximum of life in prison.