An 8-year-old girl reported missing in Santa Cruz on Sunday and found dead in a recycling bin a day later was allegedly lured by a 15-year-old boy into his apartment where he killed her, the city’s police chief said today.
The boy, who police have not identified, was neighbors and acquaintances with Madyson “Maddy” Middleton, police Chief Kevin Vogel said during a news conference outside police headquarters this morning.
Video surveillance footage captured the girl riding her Razor scooter at the complex and witnesses saw her playing with friends prior to her disappearance around 5 p.m. Sunday at the Tannery Arts Center at 1030 River St., Vogel said.
The center is part of an arts campus and offers 100 affordable housing units. Maddy lived at the housing complex with her mother, according to police.
She was reported missing at 6:08 p.m. Sunday and officers conducted an extensive and exhaustive search for her through the night, and for most of Monday, Vogel said:
“When we started this investigation, our hope and our prayers were that we were going to find Maddy alive.”
Personnel from the FBI, the state Office of Emergency Services, Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office and other area law enforcement agencies assisted in looking for the girl, according to Vogel.
At 7:55 p.m. Monday, a Santa Cruz police detective conducted a second and more thorough search of the Tannery complex and found Maddy’s body concealed in a recycling bin in a first-floor parking structure, Vogel said.
The 15-year-old boy, who lives in a unit above where Maddy’s body was found, was taken in by police officers for questioning that lasted into early Tuesday morning, the chief said.
He was subsequently arrested on suspicion of homicide and booked into the county juvenile detention center based on evidence that linked him to the alleged crime, according to Vogel.
Vogel said he believes the girl was killed before she was reported missing Sunday evening.
The boy allegedly lured Maddy into his unit, where investigators suspect he was alone when he killed her, then placed her body in the recycling bin, the chief said.
It appears Maddy willingly accompanied the suspect to his unit and had a reasonable amount of trust in him, Vogel said.
Vogel offered his sympathies to Maddy’s family on behalf of the Police Department:
“This has been just a horrific, horrific experience for (Maddy’s) family as well as the entire community.”
Santa Cruz County District Attorney Jeff Rosell said his staff is determining what charges to file against the 15-year-old boy.
There are some charges that can be filed as an adult, Rosell said.
Santa Cruz Mayor Don Lane offered his “deepest sympathies” to Maddy’s family and friends on behalf of the city:
“Today is also a day to honor the life of Madyson and to offer support to those most profoundly affected by her death.”