BIRTH: June 17, 1990
DEATH: November 3, 1998
Madelyn "Maddie" Rae Clifton ~ Age 8
Maddie, 8, was murdered by a 14 year old friend of hers because he was afraid that she would tell that he hit her with a baseball.
When Maddie disappeared the first suspect named in the case was neighbor Larry Grisham. Larry 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 Maddie’s disappearance, but provided an alibi.
Police called off the search for Maddie, but the community, including over 400 volunteers, persisted. A reward was offered, that initially was $50,000 but later doubled. One of the volunteers searching for Maddie was Joshua Phillips. Joshua lived with his parents in a one-story house, across the street from Maddie’s family. He was also considered a friend of hers which she would play with.
8 days after Maddie disappeared her body was found when Joshua’s mother, Melissa, found that his waterbed appeared to be leaking. Upon further examination, she discovered Maddie’s body hidden inside the pedestal of Phillips’s waterbed. She promptly ran outside her home and went across the street to get the police.
Joshua was arrested that day at school for the murder of his friend, Maddie.
The teen told police detectives he accidentally hit Maddie with a baseball while they were playing and fearing his father’s wrath, he dragged Maddie inside, and bludgeoned her with a baseball bat to silence her cries. He concealed Maddie within the frame of his waterbed and went about the house as usual as nothing was amiss.
Later, during dinner that same evening, Joshua heard Maddie whimpering. He then returned to his room, where, using a knife to silence his friend, he stabbed Maddie 9 times in the neck and chest. Police were able to retrieve both the bat and the knife used in the assault.
For 8 nights, Joshua slept over Maddie’s body before his mother, Melissa, discovered the child’s sock-covered feet extruding from the waterbed frame. The murder appears to have been motivated by Joshua’s fear of his abusive father, who would have been very angry had he found Maddie inside their house.
Joshua Earl Patrick Phillips, at age 15, was charged with first degree murder in the death of his 8-year-old neighbour and playmate, Madelyn Clifton. He was charged as an adult. He was convicted and sentenced to life without parole. He’s appealing his case based on his age and having a sentence of no parole.
NOTE: This handwritten letter, written by Joshua, was among court documents released after a jury convicted him of the first-degree murder of his friend Maddie.
”I can only imagine how hard this is for you. I can’t tell you how sorry and guilty I feel. Every night, I think to myself if only I could of had reacted better to the situation and not have been thinking about getting in trouble.
I didn’t think about the situation. I was stupid and only thought about what trouble I’d be in even though it was an accident. I was so damn stupid. I didn’t want my dad angry at me and I guess I did it to be safe from him. But it wasn’t worth it. I made a huge mistake. I’m so sorry. I can only beg for your forgiveness. I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.”
Authorities said they didn’t know to whom the letter was intended. It was the only sign of emotion that Joshua expressed during the eight months after his arrest and during his trial.
Sentencing comments from Steve Clifton
Sentencing comments from Melissa Phillips
Joshua Phillips: ‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry’
14 Year Old Joshua Phillips Murdered His 8-Year-Old Neighbour
THE MADDIE CLIFTON SAGA: A timeline of events from the day she disappeared
Maddie Clifton Memorial Site
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