When fliers went up all over town of a grinning elementary schoolgirl, Santa Cruzans waited with a mix of hope and despair.

In a blitzkrieg effort on Monday, locals scoured the area looking for Madyson Middleton, the 8-year-old who went missing Sunday, July 26 from the Tannery Arts Center, where she lived. People raised the alarm downtown and all over social media. A man on Broadway slowed traffic as he stood in the bike lane holding one of the fliers of smiling “Maddy,” as she was known to friends and family.

It was difficult, though, to feel too optimistic.

“Mostly what I felt was terror,” says Michelle Williams, executive director of Arts Council Santa Cruz County, which has its office at the Tannery. “I don’t know that I even dared to hope because these things rarely turn out well. But because we’re such a strong community, I thought maybe something would happen.”

Middleton’s body was discovered in a Tannery recycling bin on Monday night, and a 15-year-old boy was taken into custody. Santa Cruz County District Attorney Jeff Rosell told reporters on Tuesday that his office could charge the suspect as an adult on certain charges and would consider doing so.

Middleton had last been seen riding her scooter in the Tannery courtyard just after 5 p.m., Sunday. Her family called the police at 6:08 p.m.

Santa Cruz Police Chief Kevin Vogel believes Middleton was willingly lured into the suspect’s apartment—also at the Tannery—and killed on Sunday evening. The suspect, who police think acted alone, was an acquaintance of Middleton. Vogel said investigators are awaiting autopsy reports for more information.

A team of Santa Cruz police officers—along with backup from Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office, San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office and the FBI—had searched the surrounding area, including the woods, San Lorenzo River levee and the 8-acre Tannery campus.

Most residents and artists from the Tannery contacted on Tuesday appeared devastated by news of the crime. Williams, who watched the ordeal unfold from across the country in New York City, says her two sons often ride their scooters in the same courtyard where Middleton was last seen. Talking on the phone to GT from the airport, she was anxious to get back to Santa Cruz. More than anything, she says, the tragedy makes her want to hug her kids and hug Middleton’s mom, Laura Jordan.

“I want to see what I can do to help them heal,” Williams says, “and take care of Maddy’s family.”

Correction

In an April 7 news brief about Kiva Retreat House, GT used the term “bit the dust” in reference to Kiva’s then-closure. As we reported on May 20, Kiva has reopened under new management. The closure was temporary. An April 14 news brief stated that former Kiva manager River Maximuk said he paid $72,000 of his own funds to keep the place running, and hadn’t been paid back by the owner. Kiva disputes this statement.

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