Grand jury indicts boy, 14, as adult in girl's slaying

Published Nov. 20, 1998|Updated Sept. 14, 2005

A 14-year-old boy was indicted Thursday on a charge of first-degree murder for the beating and stabbing death of 8-year-old Maddie Clifton, whose body was found under his water bed.

The 23-member Duval County grand jury met behind closed doors for two hours before handing up the indictment, which charges Joshua Earl Patrick Phillips as an adult in the Nov. 3 killing.

Chief Circuit Judge Donald Moran signed an order transferring Phillips from the county juvenile detention center to the county jail.

Defense attorney Richard Nichols said Phillips would plead not guilty at an arraignment today.

Nichols said he planned to file motions seeking to have the indictment thrown out and to challenge the right of the grand jury to indict a 14-year-old. He also was arranging for a psychological evaluation of his client.

Phillips committed premeditated murder by beating and stabbing the girl to death, using a knife and baseball bat, the indictment said. Police have refused to discuss a possible motive.

If convicted, Phillips would face a mandatory sentence of life without the possibility of parole. Because of his age, he would not be eligible for the death penalty.

Phillips, who had been banned from the girl's home after he was caught uninvited in her older sister's bedroom, was arrested Nov. 10 after his mother, Melissa, smelled a foul odor. She pulled off an end board from the bed and saw the girl's feet.

Maddie, who lived across the street from Phillips, vanished the evening of Nov. 3 while chipping golf balls in their Lakewood neighborhood. Hundreds of volunteers searched the area and thousands of fliers with the girl's picture were posted around Jacksonville and neighboring communities, offering a $100,000 reward for her safe return.

Phillips, who slept for a week in the same bed where girl's body was hidden, even helped in the search. His own home was searched by police three times as part of a general search of the working-class neighborhood.

During a search the night before the body was found, officers detected an odor _ they couldn't pinpoint what _ mixed with room deodorizer and incense. Phillips' mother blamed the smell on two birds.