While it wasn’t a particularly politically charged story and didn’t get very much play on the cable news circuit, the tale of eight year old Madyson Middleton in California was an unspeakable tragedy all the same. The little girl had gone missing for days, sparking a massive search by police and neighbors. Unfortunately, it all came to naught when her lifeless body was found in a dumpster. The alleged killer, as it turned out, was one of her neighbors and he was only fifteen years old. He’s being charged as an adult.

Prosecutors charged a 15-year-old boy with murder, kidnapping and rape Wednesday in the death of an 8-year-old girl in an artists complex in a California beach town.

Police say Adrian Jerry Gonzalez lured Madyson Middleton into his family’s apartment from a courtyard where she had been riding her scooter over the weekend. Once inside, he tied her up, sexually assaulted and killed her, according a charging document.

Gonzalez remains in custody at the Santa Cruz County juvenile detention center, where he has been held since the girl’s body was found in a recycling bin Monday evening.

“Unfortunately, the search for Maddy ended in the worst way possible,” Santa Cruz District Attorney Jeffrey Rosell said.

If convicted on the worst of the charges, Gonzalez could face life in prison without parole. But technically a fifteen year old boy is still a child. We’re faced yet again with the question of what to do with kids who commit crimes traditionally associated with adults. In some cases (and it varies state by state) juvenile offenders may wind up doing time in a special facility for youths and wind up back on the streets in a comparatively short period of time. They may be in some sort of reeducation program to attempt to straighten them out. But does that even work?

While it may be completely unrelated to this case, gangs have been recruiting younger and younger kids for decades. At one time this was a strategy which worked well in assuring that their “employees” would get a slap on the wrist and be back to work in short order. But that doesn’t mean that they didn’t know what they were doing was illegal and that they can’t be held accountable for their actions. Looking at the picture of Gonzalez taken during his arraignment, I was shocked to hear that he was that young. He looked like he could easily be eighteen to me.

Also the background turned up by investigators makes it sound as if Gonzalez knew exactly what was going on and was trying to make sure he wasn’t caught, while showing no remorse.

Residents have been heartbroken to learn that he is suspected in the death, he said.

“It wasn’t somebody from the outside,” Nelson said. “It was somebody we all knew. It was someone we all knew and liked.”

Setorro Garcia, a Tannery resident who knew both the victim and suspect, said Gonzalez had been curious about the investigation.

“He kept asking, ‘Any updates?'” Garcia said.

Kidnapping. Rape. Torture. Murder. Dumping an eight year old girl’s lifeless body in a dumpster. Are we really being asked to consider that Gonzalez is a child now and to look at a more lenient treatment? It may seem controversial, but it seems that this young man was adult enough to do the crime, and now he’s going to have to do the time. The numbers on paper don’t do justice to the horror of what went on and it would not be inappropriate if he gets life behind bars, assuming the findings are as they now seem.

We don’t need hard and fast rules for minimum age in terms of punishment. It should be handled on a case by case basis, and in this case it seems we have a cold blooded murderer on our hands.