California teen accused of fatally stabbing 8-year-old girl and hiding body in recycling bin
Crime scene (Shutterstock)

An 8-year-old girl whose body was discovered last month in a recycling bin at a residential complex in the seaside California city of Santa Cruz died of asphyxiation and stab wounds to the neck, officials said on Thursday.

Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Office spokesman Lieutenant Kelly Kent said the coroner ruled Madyson Middleton's death a homicide. Prior to the discovery of her body, she was last seen on the evening of July 26 riding a scooter at the Tannery Arts Center housing complex.

Adrian Jerry Gonzalez, 15, was charged as an adult with lying in wait before kidnapping, raping and killing Middleton. Gonzalez appeared in court last month but entered no plea, and a subsequent arraignment was scheduled for Sept. 21, according to the Santa Cruz County District Attorney's Office.

Police said Middleton knew Gonzalez, who lured her to his family's apartment at the center, which offers affordable housing to artists, and killed her.

Gonzalez, who acted alone, concealed her body inside a recycling bin downstairs, according to police.

He was arrested while watching detectives near the bin where Middleton's body was found, police said. Police said the girl was likely killed before she was even reported missing.

Local, state and FBI agents helped by law enforcement dogs searched for Middleton in Santa Cruz, a socially liberal community about 60 miles (97 km) south of San Francisco, and local residents also canvassed the area where she was last seen.