Twenty-one years ago

by Tiffany | May 14, 2019 10:33 am

About twenty-one years ago an eight-year-old when missing on November 03, 1998, and then her body was found about a week later on November 10, 1998. This was one of the first cases that I remember making national news, it was everywhere. I was in middle school when this was going on, and everyone wanted this little girl to be found alive and safe. I don’t remember the FBI or America’s Most Wanted being involved but they were, that is how big this case was.

Trigger Warning, the details in this case is very disturbing, very violent, mentions of abusive, and extremely messed up.

It happened in a very nice neighbor in Jacksonville, Florida and the missing girl was named Maddie, and her killer was her friend Joshua who was 14 at the time. They played together a lot, and both of their mutual friend was someone who lived in the neighbor happened to be a friend of mine, and I met both of them. I didn’t live in the city at that point in my life anymore. Now, I didn’t know either one of them well like I knew my friend, but I still had never seen this coming, I don’t think anyone did. Especially, since I was so young at the time, I don’t think most people at that age could have seen someone they knew or met being someone who had the potential to kill.

There was a search effort to find Maddie in which Josh helped in, knowing that she wouldn’t be found. During this time there was a suspect in the case, this was someone that everyone believed had something to do with her disappearance. He was someone that my dad went to school with, and I remember that he said that he had been a weirdo in school and that he thought that this suspect had done something to her. This also happened to be someone who had a past of sexual violence and had failed the lie detector. This was also someone that everyone including my dad said they suspected this from him. Fortunately for him, he had an alibi, but that didn’t stop people from questioning it.

On Nov 10th is when Josh’s mom found Maddie under her bed, alerted the police, and he was arrested at the school.

I remember not really understand at the time why a small thing as Maddie getting hit with a baseball, could turn into this. I had never known at that point in time that a father could be abusive, so I didn’t understand how Josh could be afraid of his. At this point, we only learned that Josh was afraid of his father, it wasn’t until later we heard that he was an abusive drunk. After Josh hit her will the baseball, he dragged her to his house, strangled her with a phone cord, beat her with the baseball bat, and hid her under his bed. Then later on he heard that she was still alive he stabbed her 11 times then put her back under this bed. When the body was found there were no clothes on her from the waist down, but there was no sign of sexual assault.

I remember when the news came out that she was found dead, it was so shocking to me, I remember thinking there was no way someone I met could have been dead, or anything but alive. I remember when they announced it on the tv because there was this cop who had been apart of this case from the very beginning and so they say it and this cop, a large and strong looking man cried and fainted. He loved this little girl and he wanted to find her.

My dad had talked to my friend’s dad and he told my dad that he wasn’t sure how to tell his kid how one friend killed the other. He ended up not telling him, and my friend learned it at school.

Josh was charged with first-degree murder and was sentenced to life without parole. They wanted to consider him a 14-year-old for the death penalty but under the law he would have had to be 16. His conviction was upheld in 2002, but in 2004 his mom had research that noted that his age should have been more of a factor when considering the sentencing. Then in 2008, the officials who were behind the sentencing had second thoughts about the without parole part. Then in 2012, the supreme court ruled that life sentences without parole for juveniles was unconstitutional. It wasn’t until 2017 that a re-sentencing happened and he was re-sentenced to life, but eligible for a sentence review in 2023.

While he was in prison he became a paralegal in 2007, and now helps other inmates with their appeals.

I think the saddest part of this case is that kids had been involved, one is dead, and the other might never get out of jail. I completely understand why the victim’s parents don’t want him out of jail, that was a violent crime and death, that is their right. I just personally have very conflicting feelings about this. Can he ever be released and live a normal life, and does he deserve to? He was a child during this crime who was motived by abuse and fear, and it is proven that children’s brains aren’t developed to make informed decisions. At the same time does that matter, I feel like it does and it doesn’t. It also goes to say this was his only offense.

Josh has served more time than murders, rapes, serial killers that have been done but adults who can make an informed choice and have been way more violent than him. That doesn’t mean that he didn’t necessarily deserve his time, but a lot of others deserved more, it just shows how clearly unequal the justice system is. At the age he was when he entered prison showed that he needed help, and prison is supposed to be about rehabilitation, and shouldn’t especially a child get that? There have been so many children, young children his age when he entered prison that you know had been abused like him and turned around and killed, but is it their fault or is it their parents who shouldn’t have absued them and protected them.

It’s just odd how we as a society are so willing to give adults second chances but when it’s a kid we throw away the key.

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