SANTA CRUZ, Califoria - The Filipino American teen in Santa Cruz, California suspected of allegedly murdering, kidnapping, and sexually assaulting 8-year-old Maddy Middleton made his first appearance in court.
Adrian Jerry Gonzalez, 15, did not enter a plea. He only answered with a simple “yes” when asked by the judge if he understood the aspects of his case.
Gonzalez was then ordered to appear in court on September 21 to enter a plea. His defense attorney Larry Biggam, spoke briefly to the media following the court appearance.
“Our job is to review the evidence, conduct our own investigation, and make sure that the minor — like every citizen accused — receives a fair trial,” Biggam said.
Santa Cruz County District Attorney Jeffrey Rosell said that he feels that charges against Gonzalez were accurately made.
“We filed charges that were legally appropriate and we are confident in our case,” Rosell said.
Gonzalez was arrested Monday, July 27, after police found the 8-year-old victim’s body in the recycling bin of the apartment complex property.
According to a criminal report, Gonzalez allegedly lured Middleton into his apartment, tied her up, sexually assaulted her, and strangled her to death.
Families in the close-knit community were shocked to hear that Gonzalez was charged in Middleton’s murder, calling him a well-rounded kid who often played with his yo-yo.
Balitang America sources confirm that Gonzales’ mother is Filipino and hails from Romblon. The sources include a 16-year-old former classmate of Gonzalez whose identity is concealed because of her age.
The former classmate revealed that Gonzalez had told her that he was suicidal at an early age.
“He would say, when I was friends with him, that a smile is the best disguise — things that sounded weird. Coming from a 13-year-old, that was very in my face and that something is wrong. But I didn’t know what to do to help him,” she said.
Balitang America attempted to speak to the management of the Tannery Arts Center housing complex where Gonzales lived with his family, but they were unavailable for a comment.
Gonzalez, a minor, will be tried as an adult. If convicted, he faces a maximum of life in prison. The death penalty does not apply to juveniles.
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