SANTA CRUZ, Calif. (KION) The suspect in the murder of 8-year-old Maddy Middleton, Adrian "A.J." Gonzalez, has pleaded guilty to all charges, according to the Santa Cruz County District Attorney's Office.
Gonzalez is charged with first-degree murder and multiple charges related to her kidnapping and rape.
Gonzalez was 15 years old at the time of the crime, and in February of this year, the California Supreme Court ruled that minors under the age of 16 cannot be tried in adult criminal court.
The ruling from the court came in the case of O.G. vs The Superior Court of Ventura County.
Proposition 57, which passed in November 2016, allowed for some minors as young as 14 to be moved from juvenile court to adult criminal court (at the recommendation of the judge), but in 2018, Senate Bill 1391 amended the proposition and did not allow minors under the age of 16 to be transferred to adult court. The Supreme Court upheld SB 1391 in the Court of Appeals, finding that it is an allowable amendment to Prop 57.
Eight-year-old Madyson "Maddy" Middleton was lured into a Santa Cruz apartment in July 2015, and she was later found dead in a recycling bin at the apartment complex. The suspect in her murder, Adrian "A.J." Gonzalez, was 15 years old at the time and was decided to be tried as an adult, but the passing SB 1391 delayed the case as the two sides debated what should happen. He is accused of kidnapping, raping and murdering Middleton.
Supporters of the bill say it allows juveniles to seek rehabilitation they would not get in prison. Instead of facing life in prison, Gonzalez may be sent to the Department of Juvenile Justice and released when he is 25.
The DA's Office says it is not known if Gonzalez will need to register as a sex offender after he turns 25 in four years. His sentencing is set for April 27.