SANTA CRUZ (CBS SF/AP) — A 21-year-old man pleaded guilty under juvenile justice terms to the 2015 kidnapping, sexual assault and murder of 8-year-old Madyson “Maddy” Middleton in Santa Cruz.

Adrian Gonzalez entered the plea Tuesday as soon as the case was transferred to juvenile court, the Santa Cruz Sentinel reported.

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Gonzalez was 15 at the time Middleton was killed. The two were neighbors in the same Santa Cruz apartment complex. Prosecutors say Gonzalez lured the girl into his apartment and she willingly went with him. There, he allegedly raped her before stabbing her and placing her in a recycling bin. Medical examiners concluded she ultimately died of positional asphyxiation from her position in the recycling bin.

Maddy Middleton, Adrian Jerry Gonzalez

(L-R) Maddy Middleton, Adrian Jerry Gonzalez in court. (Family Photo/CBS)

Santa Cruz County Superior Court Judge John Salazar said he had no choice but to remove the case from the adult court system due to juvenile justice reforms, the Sentinel reported.

In adult court, Gonzalez could have faced two consecutive life prison sentences for murder, kidnapping, sexual penetration, two counts of lewd and lascivious behavior and intercourse with a minor, plus misdemeanor destruction of evidence.

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In the juvenile system, Gonzalez will be eligible for release at age 25.

“The issue has always been, would Adrian, who was 15 at the time of the crime, receive treatment in an age-appropriate facility or pure punishment in an adult prison,” said defense attorney Larry Biggam.

The state plans to stop admissions to youth facilities before July as it moves to end the program by 2023, the Sentinel reported.

Biggam said he expects Gonzalez to be admitted and if the facility closes before he ages out he could be sent back to the county for supervision.

 

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© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.