Updated Wednesday, July 8th @ 5:13 p.m.
of the Phillips Trial
...a memorial to Maddie
Jury finds Phillips guilty of first-degree murder
Joshua Phillips is lead from the courtroom after being found guilty of first-degree murder.
Joshua Phillips was found guilty Thursday of fatally bludgeoning and stabbing 8-year-old Maddie Clifton, and then stuffing her body into the frame of his waterbed.
A jury deliberated for more than two hours before convicting the 15-year-old Phillips of first-degree murder in the death of Maddie, who lived across the street from him in a Jacksonville neighborhood.
Joshua showed no emotion as the verdict was read. Maddie's parents, Steve and Sheila Clifton, blinked back tears.
"This is a day of justice for Maddie," Sheila Clifton said outside the courthouse, clutching a bracelet with Maddie's name on it. "That piece of my heart that's gone is waiting on the other side, waiting on the other side for us."
Joshua's family and his attorney left the courthouse without talking to reporters.
Joshua, who was 14 at the time of the murder, was tried as an adult. Since he is under 16, he cannot be sentenced to death in Florida. He could be sent to prison for life with no chance of parole. Circuit Judge Charles Arnold set a sentencing date for August 12th in Jacksonville.
Maddie disappeared Nov. 3, 1998, prompting a search of her Jacksonville neighborhood involving hundreds of volunteers. Her decomposing body was found seven days later stuffed in the frame of Joshua's water bed across the street from her home.
His attorney argued earlier Thursday that Maddie's murder wasn't premeditated and urged jurors to convict Joshua of manslaughter.
"We're not here to act out of some form of vengeance," defense attorney Richard Nichols said. "We're not here to act as a bunch of well-dressed vigilantes."
Detectives testified during the trial that Joshua confessed to the murder.
According to Joshua's story, he accidentally hit Maddie in the eye with a baseball while they were playing in his backyard. She began screaming.
Joshua told detectives that he panicked because he feared being punished by his father and dragged Maddie into his bedroom. When she wouldn't stop screaming, he hit her in the head with a bat. When she kept moaning, Joshua grabbed a knife and stabbed her in the neck.
He then stuffed her body into the frame of his water bed and went to wash up. After Joshua heard her moaning, he pulled her from the bed and stabbed her again until she stopped breathing, according to Joshua's story.
An autopsy showed Maddie was beaten over the head and stabbed at least nine times in the chest and twice in the neck, he said. "The evidence shows us there was an accident that deteriorated into panic and then murder," Nichols said.
State Attorney Harry Shorstein said Joshua's story was unlikely and suggested that the murder may have been sexually motivated. There was no blood on the ball, no blood in the yard and no dirt on Maddie's body or clothes.
He said Maddie's pants and underpants were removed from her body and Joshua had previously talked to Maddie and her sister about sex.
His trial was moved 200 miles from Jacksonville to the central Florida town of Bartow, about 40 miles southeast of Tampa, because of intense news coverage.
The trial only lasted two days because Joshua's lawyers presented no witnesses or evidence. "This case was open and shut," Shorstein said, adding there was no clear motive for Maddie's death. "There aren't any great explanations."
(The Associated Press contributed to this report. All Rights Reserved.)