SANTA CRUZ (CBS SF) — A 17-year-old boy accused of murdering an 8-year-old girl in 2015 was ordered by a judge to stand trial as an adult, the Santa Cruz County Public Defender, who is also the teen’s attorney, confirmed Wednesday.
Adrian “A.J.” Gonzalez is charged with kidnapping, sexually assaulting and murdering Madyson “Maddy” Middleton at the Santa Cruz apartment complex where they both lived.
Attorney Larry Biggam said he plans to appeal the ruling, arguing that it would do nothing but hurt his client and the public if he is ever released because he will not receive the same rehabilitating treatment in a jail that he has received so far in juvenile hall.
“Adrian needs to be held accountable and punished in a safe environment with treatment and support with healthy change and maturation,” Biggam said.
According to Biggam, Gonzalez has been a model inmate and has responded well to the structure and stability of juvenile hall. That won’t be the same once he’s moved to the “toxic adult prison environment,” Biggam said, adding that the juvenile system is treatment-based while the adult system is punishment-based.
“That serves neither the minor nor the public if and when he’s released,” he said.
According to Biggam, the judge’s ruling is allowed as part of Proposition 57, which was passed in Nov. 2016, which allows juvenile court judges to determine whether or not a child can be tried as an adult.
Biggam said he expects the appeal process to last another four to five months.
Gonzalez, who hasn’t yet entered a plea, is set to appear in court next on Nov. 28, according to Biggam.
Officials with the Santa Cruz District Attorney’s Office were not immediately available for comment.
Gonzalez allegedly killed Maddy on July 26, 2015 at the Tannery Arts Center’s housing complex at 1030 River St., where they both lived with their families.
Maddy had last been seen early that evening riding her Razor scooter outside around the complex shortly before she was reported missing, police said.
Santa Cruz police officers, county sheriff’s deputies, FBI personnel and other agencies searched for Maddy until the next day when they found her body in a large recycling bin in a first-floor parking garage at the complex.
Soon after authorities made the discovery, Gonzalez, who was 15 at the time, was taken for questioning and arrested by police on suspicion of homicide and booked into the county juvenile detention center, according to police.
Detectives had said they believed Gonzalez lured Maddy into his apartment and she willingly went with him. There, he allegedly raped her before killing her and placing her body in the recycling bin.
A subsequent autopsy on Maddy’s body showed she died from asphyxiation and stab wounds to her neck.
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