The case of Maddie Clifton: The narrative behind the girl's murder and latest updates

The case of Maddie Clifton: The narrative behind the girl's murder and latest updates

The story surrounding Maddie Clifton and her premature death will send chills down the spine of anyone, irrespective of how many times they hear the story. The whole of America was shaken, and the families involved never genuinely got back to normalcy afterwards.

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Maddie Clifton
Maddie Clifton. Photo: @wjxt4
Source: Twitter

When it was confirmed that Maddie Clifton had been murdered in a rather gruesome manner by her friend and neighbour, her parents' hope of holding their daughter again was dashed. The aftermath of this revelation was a rigorous and painful court process while trying to seek justice for their dead daughter.

Profile summary

  • Birth name: Madelyn Rae Clifton
  • Nickname: Maddie Clifton
  • Date of birth: 17th June 1990
  • Date of death: 3rd November 1998
  • Age at death: 8 years old
  • Birthplace/hometown: Jacksonville, Florida, United States of America
  • Nationality: American
  • Residence at the time of death: Jacksonville, Florida, United States of America
  • Ethnicity: White
  • Zodiac sign: Gemini
  • Height: 4 feet and 4 inches
  • Weight: 20 kilograms
  • Body build: Slender
  • Eye colour: Brown
  • Hair colour: Brown
  • Parents: Steve and Sheila Clifton
  • Sibling: Jessie Clifton
  • Education: San Jose Catholic School

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Background information

Madelyn Rae Clifton was born on the 17th of June 1990 to Steve and Sheila Clifton. Maddie Clifton's sister, Jessie Clifton, was three years older than her and the family lived together in Jacksonville, Florida, United States of America.

So, where did Maddie Clifton go to school? The eight-year-old Madelyn was a San Jose Catholic student, and most people described her as someone full of life and ready to take on challenges.

What actually happened to Maddie Clifton?

The 3rd of November, 1998, was the day life was gruesomely snuffed out of little Maddie. Below is a quick look at the timeline of events that surrounded Maddie Clifton's murder.

Maddie comes back from school

Maddie came home from school around 4:30 pm on the 3rd November 1998 and did a bit of piano practice before stepping out to play. Unfortunately, the young girl went into the compound of a neighbour who was 16 years old at the time.

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Maddie Clifton
Joshua Philip, Maddie's killer, in a prison uniform. Photo: @wjxt4
Source: Twitter

This neighbour's grandma confirmed this and that a certain Joshua Phillips, who later became the perpetrator of resident evil, crept on from behind Maddie.

However, the atmosphere became tense when Mrs Sheila Clifton called her daughter to come home for dinner but received no response at about 6:20 pm. When her calls and checks around the house yielded nothing, Maddie's mother dialled the emergency number, 911, at about 6:33 pm.

It was pretty obvious afterwards that Maddie was missing, and several people in the Jacksonville neighbourhood trooped out to assist in the search for Maddie. Amongst them was Joshua.

Efforts towards finding Maddie

A detective visited Joshua Phillips and interrogated him about Maddie, and he confirmed that he saw Maddie the previous day but declined any suggestion that they played together.

Phillips' house, car, and storage were ransacked by the police, who returned to question Joshua in his room some days later. However, it was already a week into the situation of Maddie's disappearance, and several flyers and a $50,000 reward was promised to anyone who came forward with helpful information.

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Unfortunately, all this was to no avail, and the coming revelation proved it so. So, precisely what did Josh Phillips do to Maddie? The answer to this would have remained a mystery if his mother had not discovered something shocking in his room. Mrs Phillips ran across the street to inform the police officers about her discovery, and they followed her home immediately.

A strange odour greeted them as they stepped into Joshua's room. More so, they noticed two feet in white socks underneath Josh's bed with some liquid and tape around it. Eventually, Maddie Clifton was discovered dead under Joshua's bed one week later.

A policeman went to pick Joshua at school, and further ransacking of his room produced evidence of Josh's involvement in the death of Maddie. Some of the things found in his room that pointed to this fact included a baseball bat, a leatherman knife tool, different kinds of air fresheners, and rolls of tape.

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But, above all, there was a dead Maddie whose undies and shirt looked like someone had tried to take them off.

What did Joshua Phillips do to Maddie Clifton?

Joshua confessed to the murder. He said it was true that he saw Maddie the previous day, and they played baseball together. Josh admitted that he hit the ball a little too hard at some point and struck Maddie in the left eye, leaving her with a bloodied eye. This was the beginning of the gruesome murder perpetrated by a child.

Instead of taking her home to be treated, Joshua claimed he was scared that his father, an alcoholic, would do something terrible to him if he found out that he had played with the little girl.

So, when the little girl didn't stop wailing about her hurting eye, Joshua Phillips hit her in the head with the baseball bat and dragged her into the house. He said that was why it looked like the girl's clothes were tampered with.

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Anybody would feel more hurt if they were hit continuously with a bat just after suffering from a bloodied eye, and this was how Maddie felt. She won't stop crying, and Josh, who was only thinking about his father's punishment, took out a knife and slit her throat to stop her from drawing attention with a penknife.

Maddie Clifton
Joshua Philip, Maddie's murderer. Photo: @Experts_Com
Source: Twitter

When Josh's father returned home, the boy said he was afraid that Maddie, who was not dead despite the slit in her throat, would draw his dad's attention with her laboured breathing. So, he pulled the girl from under his bed and stabbed her in the lungs to end her struggle to stay alive.

Maddie Clifton's autopsy revealed that she had been hit in the head throne and that her throat had been slit open. The report also revealed that the eight years old had been stabbed in the chest seven times. So, how old was Maddie Clifton when she died? She was about eight years and five months old.

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Is there a movie about Maddie Clifton?

Yes, thanks to the effort of Susanna Reid, a documentary producer, there is a 48 minutes documentary of Maddie Clifton's murder. In addition, in Susanna's Children Who Kill episode, the viewer can follow Joshua's court proceedings, who had already spent 23 years out of his life imprisonment.

Latest updates

Joshua's attorneys are pleading with the state to overturn his sentence since it happened when he was still a minor. He has been in prison since he was 15 and is meant to spend the rest of his life there.

Some people think that the judge's verdict was rather harsh if the perpetrator's age is anything to go by. However, his appeal for his sentence to be overturned was rejected by a judge in 2017, and he can reapply for another one in 2023.

Joshua has finished his high school diploma in prison and is now a law clerk who dishes advice to his fellow inmates. He is remorseful about what he did, and although he is not sure that he deserves a second chance, Joshua said he would grab it with both hands and do better.

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Undoubtedly, what happened to Maddie Clifton was beyond terrible, but how it has affected the lives of the families involved is even more tragic. The Cliftons are divorced; Josh's father is dead, but his mother hopes that her son will return home to her.

Michael Peterson may be a retired American soldier who fought in the Vietnam war and rose to the highest position of a Captain. Still, the latter part of his story is discouraging.

As published on, he was unfortunately at the centre of a murder case in 2001 and spent about eight years in jail after an initial conviction in 2003. Please find out more about him and all he did before he was sent to prison from the post.

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