SANTA CRUZ, Calif – A teenage boy lured an 8-year-old girl into his apartment and killed her before hiding her body in a recycling bin at the housing complex where they lived, authorities said Tuesday.
Santa Cruz Police Chief Kevin Vogel told reporters that Madyson Middleton was probably dead even before she was reported missing Sunday evening.
Federal and local law enforcement searched the area surrounding the complex Sunday night and throughout Monday before finding the girl's body that night.
A 15-year-old boy, who police say knew the girl as a neighborhood acquaintance, was arrested on suspicion of murder, Vogel said.
The boy, whose name is not being released because he is a juvenile, was nearby when the body was discovered, and officers found evidence in the apartment that links him to the slaying, the police chief said.
Madyson willingly went to the apartment. A motive has not yet been released, Vogel said.
Prosecutors are "absolutely considering" bringing charges against the boy as an adult, Santa Cruz District Attorney Jeffrey Rosell said.
The girl's disappearance has shaken the unique artists' community called Tannery Arts Center on the outskirts of this small beach town.
Volunteers had the searched surrounding areas to look for Madyson, who was last seen Sunday afternoon. She had been seen riding her new Razor scooter in the courtyard, but around 5 p.m., her mother realized she was gone.
Police twice conducted a door-to-door search of the entire complex, as well as a homeless shelter across the street. Vogel said he did not know if the boy's apartment was immediately searched, but they believe the girl was killed before they got a call.
Beyond the 8-acre property, searchers from throughout the state used boats, helicopters, bikes and cameras in their efforts.
Authorities used dogs to search nearby woods and parks and the San Lorenzo River levee. Helicopters searched the forest and the coastline, and the Coast Guard surveyed the ocean 2 miles from where she was last seen.
Hundreds of volunteers showed up to look for Madyson in neighborhoods and streets.
The Tannery Arts Center where the girl lived is a public-private nonprofit project that includes 100 affordable loft apartments for artists and their families, a cafe and dance and art studios.