Teen arrested after body believed to be missing girl found

SANTA CRUZ, Calif (KTVU-AP) -- A 15-year-old boy was arrested Monday night after the body of a young female believed to be Madyson Middleton was found in a Dumpster near the home of the missing Santa Cruz girl, according to authorities.

The eight-year-old girl vanished Sunday afternoon from an artist community and housing center in the South Bay beach town where she lives with her mother.

She was last seen riding her new, white scooter in the Tannery Arts Center courtyard, a place where children — both residents and those taking art and dance classes — frequently play. But at about 5 p.m. her mother realized she was gone.

At around 7:55 p.m. Monday night, a Santa Cruz Police detective found the body of a young female in a Dumpster

"Although we have not positively identified her yet, we believe that she is probably Madyson Middleton," said Santa Cruz Police Chief Kevin Vogel during a press conference late Monday.

"The coroner's office typically makes confirmation, but at this time we are confident that it's Madyson Middleton," Vogel said.

Vogel called the discovery "horrible and heartbreaking."

A 15-year-old boy has been arrested on suspicion of homicide and is being questioned by detectives at the Santa Cruz Police Department, according to Vogel.

He also lives at the Tannery Arts Center and was present at approximately the same time as the body was discovered, Vogel said, but the sole suspect's relationship to the victim is not currently known.

Witnesses said that the suspect's family resides on the third floor of the center and has lived at the center since 2009. The teen is described by neighbors as polite and well liked.

When reporters asked if the clothing on the victim matched the clothing Madyson was wearing when last seen Sunday evening, Vogel stated that it's too soon to be certain.

"The way the body is situated in the dumpster where she was located, it's difficult to tell what the clothing looks like from our vantage point right now," Vogel said.

He added that investigators are in a "holding pattern" while they prepare to process the crime scene.

The Department of Justice is assisting in the investigation, according to Vogel, and police are planning to release more information sometime Tuesday morning.

At about 9:20 p.m., Santa Cruz CHP tweeted out the message "Our hearts are broken and our deepest sympathy to the family of Madyson Middleton. We are grieving with the entire Santa Cruz community."

The 4-foot-tall, 50-pound girl lived with her mother at the Tannery Arts Center, a public-private nonprofit project that includes 100 affordable loft apartments for artists and their families, a café, and dance and art studios on eight acres.

The property, a former leather tannery, is managed by The John Stewart Company. John Stewart, the company's chairman, said they are fully cooperating with authorities and turned the surveillance footage over to authorities Sunday night.