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Boy (15) charged with rape and murder of 8-year-old girl found in bin

Adrian Jerry Gonzalez has been charged with the murder of 8-year-old Madyson Middleton
Adrian Jerry Gonzalez has been charged with the murder of 8-year-old Madyson Middleton

A teenage boy accused of raping and killing an 8-year-old neighbor appeared in court briefly Thursday as flags around this small California town flew at half-staff in honor of the girl.

Adrian Jerry Gonzalez, his hands shackled in front of him, did not enter a plea. The 15-year-old's arraignment was postponed until Sept. 21, most likely to give the defense more time to build a case, said Santa Cruz District Attorney spokesman Paul Mangasarian.

Gonzalez is being tried as an adult on murder, kidnapping and rape charges.

Larry Biggam of the Santa Cruz public defender's office was appointed as the teen's lawyer. Biggam did not return multiple calls for comment Thursday.

Police say on Sunday, the teen lured Madyson Middleton into his family's apartment from a courtyard at an artists' complex where they both lived. Once inside, he tied her up, sexually assaulted and killed her, according a charging document.

Police say Gonzalez then hid the girl's body in a recycling bin.

Santa Cruz Mayor Don Lane, who ordered flags be flown at half-staff, said the reaction in the city of 62,000 is mixed and wrenching.

Both Gonzalez and Madyson were well-known at Santa Cruz City Schools, where she would have been a fourth grader and he would have been a sophomore in high school.

"Some people do go to a place of justice— he is evil— and others go to a place of, 'I need to understand this,'" Lane said. "Mostly, people are just horrified."

Handwritten signs popped up on storefronts and light posts that read, "Remember Maddy" and "We love you Maddy." Santa Cruz, in the height of summer tourist season, appears to be in mourning.

"I would say there's a mood change in the city right now. There's a somberness," city spokesman Keith Sterling said. "You're talking about two kids here, two youths, one 8 and the other 15. It's almost unimaginable."

Gonzalez remains in custody at the Santa Cruz County juvenile detention center, where he has been held since the girl's body was found Monday evening.

Neighbors at the Tannery Arts Center where both the suspect and Madyson lived were stunned by the killing. 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.

Photographer and Tannery resident Geoffrey Nelson said he's known Gonzalez for several years and described him as shy, though they often chatted. He said the teen liked to show people yo-yo tricks.

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," Scudder said.

He said her mother, Laura Jordan, has invited the community to the Tannery on Friday night to howl at the blue moon in honor of her daughter, who loved wolves.

- AP