A California teenager will stand trial as an adult for charges related to the 2015 rape and murder of his 8-year-old neighbor.
Although he was only 15 years old at the time of the attack, a judge sided with prosecutors who argued the graphic nature of the crime and the level of planning that went into it justified bringing Adrian Gonzalez, now 18, before an adult court.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Gonzalez is accused of tempting the victim, Madyson Middleton, with ice cream near his home in Santa Cruz.
The suspect then allegedly raped the girl and stabbed her in her neck before discarding her body in a recycling receptacle.
He has been in custody at a juvenile detention facility since his arrest, but a local push — spearheaded by the victim’s grandfather — to see Gonzalez tried as an adult has gained support online in recent months.
Santa Cruz County Superior Court Judge John Salazar and prosecutors agreed, with Santa Cruz District Attorney Jeff Rosell citing the “shocking and disturbing details” of the crime as reason to seek a more consequential punishment.
If tried as a minor, Gonzalez could have been released as soon as the age of 23. In adult court, however, the charges against him could carry a life sentence.
In compliance with a 2016 state law giving judge’s discretion over which juvenile defendants to try as adults, Salazar weighed issues such as whether Gonzalez could be rehabilitated and the gravity of the charges in reaching his decision.
Larry Biggam, who represents Gonzalez as a public defender, argued against an adult trial, telling the court his client had been “a model inmate” while locked up in juvenile hall.
He said sending Gonzalez to prison with adult offenders is not in the teen’s best interest.
“The kid needs more assessment and treatment,” the attorney said. “As a result of the judge’s ruling, he will now receive no treatment and will be exposed to a toxic adult prison environment.”
Michel Middleton, the victim’s father, told KSBW that while he takes no joy in the judge’s ruling, he hopes it means Gonzalez is not able to harm anyone else.
[Featured image: Santa Cruz Police]