Teen charged with murdering eight-year-old California girl

SAN FRANCISCO (REUTERS) - A 15-year-old boy was charged as an adult on Wednesday with sexually assaulting and murdering an eight-year-old girl whose body was discovered in a recycling bin at a residential complex in Santa Cruz, California, officials said.

Adrian Jerry Gonzalez was charged with lying in wait before kidnapping and killing Madyson Middleton, who was last seen on Sunday evening riding a scooter at the Tannery Arts Centre housing complex, Santa Cruz County District Attorney Jeffrey Rosell told reporters.

"Justice demands the charges that we filed," Rosell said at a morning news conference announcing the charges.

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

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

He was arrested on Monday night while watching detectives near the bin where Middleton's body was found, police said.

Police said the girl was likely killed before even being reported missing.

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

Residents were shocked both by the killing and the arrest of Gonzalez, who was described by neighbours as a mild-mannered teen.

"He's a very, very nice boy," 60-year-old Geoffrey Nelson, who lives on the same floor as the teen, told the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper.

"He is known for being really great with the yo-yo."

Gonzalez is scheduled to be arraigned on Thursday and faces life in prison if convicted, Rosell said.