The Search For Maddie

Children Were Playing In A Quiet Neighborhood

Josh Phillips seemed to be a typical 14-year-old living with his parents on a quiet street in Jacksonville, Fla. He had a C average in school. He liked to play with other kids in the neighborhood. One of those kids was his across-the-street neighbor, 8-year-old Maddie Clifton.

At around 5 p.m. on Nov. 3, 1998, Maddie, a tomboy who especially liked basketball, went out to play. She never came back.

At 6:30 p.m., her mother, Sheila, called Maddie and her sister Jessie in for dinner.

Jessie came in and said she hadn't been with her younger sister and didn't know where she was. Soon after, Sheila called 911 to report Maddie missing. "It was like she shut the door and just, poof, vanished off the face of the earth," says her father Steve, a foreman at a local metal shop.

That night the Cliftons and their neighbors searched with flashlights. Among those who searched were Josh Phillips and his parents, Steve and Missy. Over the next seven days, thousands of volunteers searched frantically, casting their net wider and wider for the little girl.

On the morning of the seventh day, Josh Phillips' mother noticed some water on the floor at the end of her son's waterbed. She thought that leaking water might be causing the strange smell in her son's room.

So she pulled apart the baseboard to check under his bed. She saw a foot. She ran out of the front door to a police officer and led him to her son's room.

"I just pointed to where they needed to look. I couldn't even go in," she remembers.

Across the street the Cliftons noticed police putting up crime scene tape around the Phillips' house. A few minutes later detectives knocked on their door.

The Phillips met their son at the police station, where he had been brought from school for questioning. In the interrogation room, Steve Phillips told his son to tell the detectives the truth.

With his father by his side, Josh described what he claims happened the day Maddie was killed. Apparently Maddie came over to his house and wanted to play. He told her he had to do his chores, but she persisted.

Josh said he agreed, but told her that he could only play for a few minutes, because his father would be getting home soon and would be angry if Maddie were there.

Josh told police he and Maddie were playing baseball in his backyard around 5:15 p.m. At one point she threw the ball, he hit it, and it hit her in the head, causing a big gash, he said. Maddie then fell down and started to scream.

He then panicked, picked her up and took her into the house, Josh said. He carried her into his room and put her on the floor, he said. When she started making noise, he became even more scared.

He didn't want to get in trouble. "When we're not at home, he's not allowed to go out and play," his father says. "He's not allowed to let anybody in."

Josh said that he panicked and hit Maddie once or twice in the head to silence her. Then, using his pcketknife, he stabbed her twice in the throat.

Later, Josh told police, he went back to his bedroom because he heard his playmate moaning. He then stabbed her again. "That's not the way he is; he's never hurt anybody," says Missy Phillips.

After confessing to the murder, Josh was arrested and taken into custody. Four days after Josh was arrested, Maddie was buried.

Find out how Josh was viewed by his family, friends and teachers in "Behind The Facade." Was there any hint that he could end up murdering Maddie?

Produced by David Kohn