Maddie Clifton PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 05 May 2009 19:42

Keep Maddie's Memory Alive!

Madelyn Rae 'Maddie' Clifton

Born:  June 17, 1990, Jacksonville

Died: November 1998, Jacksonville, Florida

Age: 8

Cause of death: Brutal first-degree murder by Joshua Phillips

Notable because: All American 14 year old boy kills 8 year old neighbor.


Joshua Earl Patrick Phillips (born March 17, 1984) is a convicted murderer from Jacksonville, Florida who (at 14 years old), in November 1998, murdered his 8-year-old neighbor, Maddie Clifton. He is currently serving a sentence of life in prison without parole for the crime.

The murder was the subject of intense national television coverage, including a documentary on 48 Hours titled "Why did Josh Kill?"

On November 3, 1998, Clifton disappeared. The first suspect named in the case was neighbor Larry Grisham. Grisham had been arrested twice in the past, both times between 15 and 20 years earlier, in sexual battery cases, but in both incidents, charges were dropped. Grisham failed a lie detector test in relation to Clifton's disappearance, but provided an alibi.

Police called off the search for Clifton, but the community, including over 400 volunteers, persisted. A reward was offered, that initially was $50,000, but later doubled. One of the volunteers was Phillips.

The FBI became involved in the case. Flyers were distributed around town, including at a local Jaguars-Bengals game. America's Most Wanted also offered to broadcast the story.

The search ended a week after the disappearance when Phillips's mother Melissa went to clean his room, finding that his waterbed seemed to be "leaking". Upon further examination, she discovered Clifton's body hidden inside the pedestal of Phillips's waterbed. She promptly called police.

Phillips was arrested that day at his school, considered to be the prime suspect. He was held in maximum security as he made his first court appearance. It was determined that Clifton's cause of death was from stabbing and clubbing with a baseball bat. Both these weapons were retrieved by police.

He was charged with first-degree murder. His trial was held in Polk County due to the massive amount of media coverage. He was convicted and sentenced to life in prison, with no possibility of him ever being freed. Because he was under 16, he was not eligible for the death penalty under Florida's law at the time.

Though it was clear Phillips was the murderer, his motive remained a mystery. Even Phillips himself has been unable to answer the question as to why he committed the murder when interviewed from prison. Though he had no history of violence, some of the evidence retrieved during police searches included violent pornography.

Following the trial, Phillips's father Steve was killed in a car accident. Clifton's parents, Steve and Sheila Clifton, later divorced
Last Updated on Wednesday, 06 May 2009 17:09

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