SANTA CRUZ, Calif. -An eight-year-old northern California girl was killed by a teen neighbor after the suspect lured her into his apartment, police said Tuesday.
Santa Cruz police chief Kevin Vogel said Madyson Middleton went willingly to the fifteen-year-old boy's apartment Sunday evening in the complex where they both lived. Vogel confirmed that a body found in a recycling bin at the complex Monday following a massive search is that of the missing girl.
Police believe the boy, who she knew as an acquaintance, killed her while they were alone in the apartment and then tried to conceal her body in the bin.
"She went there of her own volition as far as we can tell - she knew him. She was 8 years old. I think she had a reasonable amount of trust in him," Vogel said. "We don't believe she was taken there against her will."
Madyson vanished Sunday afternoon at Tannery Arts Center in Santa Cruz, where she lived with her mother. She was last seen riding her new, white scooter in the courtyard, but at about 5 p.m. her mother realized she was gone.
The Tannery Arts Center is a public-private nonprofit project that includes 100 affordable loft apartments for artists and their families, a café, and dance and art studios.
An extensive search for the girl included local and state officials and more than 50 FBI agents, Vogel said. Authorities didn't send volunteers onto adjacent hiking and biking trails for fear of disturbing potential evidence, but hundreds of volunteers showed up and looked for her in neighborhoods and streets.
Authorities used dogs to search nearby woods and parks and the San Lorenzo River levee. Helicopters searched the forest and the coastline, and the U.S. Coast Guard scoured the ocean 2 miles from where she was last seen.
The search came to a tragic end Monday evening when the girl's body was found in the recycle bin during a second and "more thorough" search of the apartment complex, Vogel said.
Vogel said the teen boy was taken into custody "almost immediately" because he was in the same area where the girl's body was found, possibly watching teams search. The teen's apartment is upstairs from the bin where the girl's body was found, Vogel said, and investigators believe the body was carried to the bin.
The boy was questioned extensively and later arrested on suspicion of homicide.
Vogel said investigators have evidence to tie the teen to the murder, but they did not disclose what the evidence was. They believe he acted alone. They say they believe the child was killed shortly before police received a call reporting her missing just after 6 p.m. Sunday, and was placed in the recycle bin shortly thereafter.
Vogel wouldn't say how the girl was killed.
Vogel said that murder has been a "horrific, horrific experience for the family as well as for our entire community."
"My staff was so hopeful we were going to find her alive," Vogel said. "When news came last night that she was not alive, it was horrible."
The teen's name has not been released because of his age, Vogel said. Santa Cruz County District Attorney Jeffrey Rosell said his office is reviewing charges and is "absolutely considering" charging the boy as an adult.