SANTA CRUZ (KRON) — Adrian Gonzalez, the 16-year-old who was arrested for the sexual assault and murder of his 8-year-old neighbor Maddy Middleton, pleaded not guilty Tuesday morning in formal court proceedings.
His trial was set for Feb. 21, 2017.
About a dozen of Middleton’s family members attended the one minute arraignment and watched as the teen, dressed in a dark green shirt and khaki pants, entered his plea. Middleton’s family told KRON4 News that they were there to keep the attention on Maddy.
Gonzalez allegedly killed Middleton on July 26 at the Tannery Arts Center’s housing complex at 1030 River St., where they both lived with their families, police said. Her body was found the next day in a large recycling bin in a first-floor parking garage at the complex, according to police.
After Middleton was reported missing Sunday evening, multiple agencies scoured the area looking for Maddy, who was last seen riding her new scooter around the Tannery Arts Complex where she and the suspect were residents.
Police arrested Gonzalez who was standing by the recycling bin when Middleton’s body was discovered.
Gonzalez will be tried as an adult. He was 15 years old at the time of Middleton’s murder.
Since Gonzalez will be tried as an adult, his sentence will be much less lenient than if he was tried as a juvenile. If convicted, Gonzalez could face life in prison.