Juan Ignacio Blanco  


  MALE murderers

index by country

index by name   A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

  FEMALE murderers

index by country

index by name   A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z




Murderpedia has thousands of hours of work behind it. To keep creating new content, we kindly appreciate any donation you can give to help the Murderpedia project stay alive. We have many
plans and enthusiasm to keep expanding and making Murderpedia a better site, but we really
need your help for this. Thank you very much in advance.




Joshua Earl PHILLIPS





Classification: Homicide
Characteristics: Juvenile (14)
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: November 3, 1998
Date of arrest: 7 days after
Date of birth: March 17, 1984
Victim profile: Maddie Clifton (female, 8)
Method of murder: Beating with a baseball bat - Stabbing with knife
Location: Jacksonville, Florida, USA
Status: Sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of parole on August 26, 1999
photo gallery 1 photo gallery 2 photo gallery 3

Caged Kids: Life Sentence

CBS News

March 31, 2004

Josh Phillips, 20, has spent a quarter of his life behind bars. And he will remain in prison until the day he dies.

Every week, for the last five years, Josh’s mother, Missy, has visited her son at the Marion Correctional Facility in Lowell, Fla.

“I love my son. I want to support him. I miss him,” says Missy to correspondent Peter Van Sant. “I see my son. I see a little boy that I saw grow up.”


Maddie was just 8 years old when she vanished from her Jacksonville, Fla., neighborhood in November 1998. 48 Hours was there as thousands of people searched for Maddie.

It took a week for Steve and Sheila Clifton to learn what happened to their daughter. Maddie had been right across the street. Her body was stuffed under 14-year-old Josh’s waterbed.

Josh told police that while playing, he accidentally hit Maddie with a baseball. In a panic, Josh says he was afraid of getting in trouble, so he hit Maddie with a baseball bat and stabbed her to stop her screaming.

“Josh is a monster in my mind because normal people don’t kill their playmates,” says Steve Clifton.

Josh, who had no history of violence, was charged as an adult with murder. He was found guilty of murder in the first degree.

In the early ’90s, most states (including Florida) changed their laws, making it easier to try juveniles as adults – and putting the emphasis on punishment rather than rehabilitation. It was in this climate in 1999 when Josh was sentenced to life without parole.


48 Hours interviewed the Cliftons a week after Josh was convicted. They believe that Josh deserves to spend the rest of his life in prison.

“I don’t know what should happen, but I’d like to get out,” says Josh, then 15, before he was transferred to state prison.

Why did this happen? “I don’t know,” says Josh. “I don’t think I have the answer … Maybe I should get some kind of counseling or something to find out what’s wrong with me.”

And after five years in prison, he still doesn’t have the answer. But since he’s been incarcerated, he hasn’t had any rehabilitation to help him come to terms with why he murdered Maddie.

“I’m just sitting here, just sitting here doing stuff at work. That’s all I do every day. I guess it will be like that pretty much until I die,” says Josh.

“Maybe one day, he’s going to realize the severity of how many people he affected by doing what he did,” says Sheila Clifton, whose life has been dramatically changed since her daughter was murdered.

After 25 years of marriage, the Cliftons are now divorced.

“My husband, he was just so stricken with grief…We just went in totally different directions,” says Sheila Clifton. “Watching her grow up, the dreams and the hopes that we had are gone, and that’s a hard thing for a mom to accept.”

“What I think is a little girl that didn’t deserve to die. I try to think about what the hell was going through my head. I screwed up my life. I screwed up hers,” says Josh. “She’s not gonna have the chance to do anything. It’s all because of me.”


Florida Sen. Steven Geller may hold the key to Josh’s future. “I believe in redemption. I believe that there needs to be a second chance,” says Geller.

“We have to start recognizing that children are not just short adults. What happens if an 8-year-old shoots somebody? Do you put them in prison for the rest of their life? Under current Florida law, you can. I’m sorry. I think that’s wrong.”

Geller has introduced a bill that would make first-time violent juvenile offenders serving life sentences eligible for parole after eight years.

“Charles Manson gets the opportunity of parole. Why should this 14-year-old at the time of the act … why should they not have the opportunity for parole?” asks Geller.

For now though, prison, not parole, is Josh’s reality. “Lately, the life sentence is just kinda hitting me,” says Josh. “Every day, you see a big line in the medical for pills and stuff, and guys with the walkers and stuff, and I say that might be me in another 50 years.”


Josh has done well in prison. Despite living in the general adult population since he was 15, Josh says he was never sexually assaulted or had any physical problems in prison. He’s gone on to receive his high school diploma and now works as a law clerk advising fellow inmates.

“He wants to do well. He wants to make something of himself,” says Josh’s mother, Missy. “I believe he should have a second chance to get out one day.”

Surprisingly, today, even Maddie’s mother has had a change of heart. “I don’t hate him. I hate what he did,” says Sheila Clifton. “Being put away in prison for life, I can’t imagine. I don’t think any child should have to suffer that.”

“I don’t think it’s appropriate to lock them up and throw away the key,” says Sen. Geller.

Just last week, Florida’s conservative Gov. Jeb Bush said he is seriously considering supporting Geller’s bill. But if the bill passes, it may affect only future cases, meaning Josh’s life sentence would remain.

But what would Josh do if he had a second chance?

“If I got out, I’d owe the world a lot,” says Josh.

“I'd try to do whatever I could to repay them. I don’t know if I deserve a second chance or not, but I know I want the chance.”


Conviction, Sentence Upheld For Maddie's Killer

Life Sentence For Teen No 'Unusual Punishment'

February 6, 2002

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- A state appeals court Wednesday upheld the life sentence in a teen-ager who was 14 when he fatally beat and stabbed 8-year-old Maddie Clifton.

The Second District Court of Appeal in Lakeland says that life in prison is not cruel or unusual punishment, given the brutality of the crime.

Joshua Phillips told investigators that he killed the girl in 1998 after she was hurt playing baseball with him. He said he was afraid of getting in trouble because his father had told him he was too old to play with her.

Phillips' trial was in Bartow due to intense media coverage of crime and strong community feelings would have made it difficult to get an impartial jury in Jacksonville.

A medical examiner testified in the 1999 trial that the girl's head had been bashed and that she had stab wounds in her neck. The autopsy showed that she was still alive when Phillips shoved her underneath his waterbed mattress.

"The court's task is only to measure the penalty imposed against constitutional standards," Judge Casanueva wrote in the court's ruling. "Joshua Phillip's sentence for this crime cannot be said to be unusual punishment."

State Attorney Harry Shorstein, who personally prosecuted the case, released a statement affirming the appeals court's ruling, noting it was a unanimous decision of the three-judge panel.

"It's terrible to see a 14-year-old sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of parole," Shorstein said. "On the other hand, it's an unbelievably tragic murder of a wonderful young girl.

Assistant State Attorney Angela Corey told Channel 4 that Phillips' lawyer could appeal to the Florida Supreme Court, perhaps claiming that he had ineffective counsel at trial.

Contacted by Channel 4, Phillip's current attorney had no comment on Wednesday's ruling.

The Florida Department of Corrections said that Phillips, who is currently housed at Marion Correctional Institution near Ocala, will probably join the adult prison when he turns 18 next month.


The Search For Maddie

CBS News

June 12, 2000

Josh Phillips seemed to be a typical 14-year-old living with his parents on a quiet street in Jacksonville, Fla. He had a C average in school. He liked to play with other kids in the neighborhood. One of those kids was his across-the-street neighbor, 8-year-old Maddie Clifton.

At around 5 p.m. on Nov. 3, 1998, Maddie, a tomboy who especially liked basketball, went out to play. She never came back.

At 6:30 p.m., her mother, Sheila, called Maddie and her sister Jessie in for dinner.

Jessie came in and said she hadn't been with her younger sister and didn't know where she was. Soon after, Sheila called 911 to report Maddie missing. "It was like she shut the door and just, poof, vanished off the face of the earth," says her father Steve, a foreman at a local metal shop.

That night the Cliftons and their neighbors searched with flashlights. Among those who searched were Josh Phillips and his parents, Steve and Missy. Over the next seven days, thousands of volunteers searched frantically, casting their net wider and wider for the little girl.

On the morning of the seventh day, Josh Phillips' mother noticed some water on the floor at the end of her son's waterbed. She thought that leaking water might be causing the strange smell in her son's room.

So she pulled apart the baseboard to check under his bed. She saw a foot. She ran out of the front door to a police officer and led him to her son's room.

"I just pointed to where they needed to look. I couldn't even go in," she remembers.

Across the street the Cliftons noticed police putting up crime scene tape around the Phillips' house. A few minutes later detectives knocked on their door.

The Phillips met their son at the police station, where he had been brought from school for questioning. In the interrogation room, Steve Phillips told his son to tell the detectives the truth.

With his father by his side, Josh described what he claims happened the day Maddie was killed. Apparently Maddie came over to his house and wanted to play. He told her he had to do his chores, but she persisted.

Josh said he agreed, but told her that he could only play for a few minutes, because his father would be getting home soon and would be angry if Maddie were there.

Josh told police he and Maddie were playing baseball in his backyard around 5:15 p.m. At one point she threw the ball, he hit it, and it hit her in the head, causing a big gash, he said. Maddie then fell down and started to scream.

He then panicked, picked her up and took her into the house, Josh said. He carried her into his room and put her on the floor, he said. When she started making noise, he became even more scared.

He didn't want to get in trouble. "When we're not at home, he's not allowed to go out and play," his father says. "He's not allowed to let anybody in."

Josh said that he panicked and hit Maddie once or twice in the head to silence her. Then, using his pcketknife, he stabbed her twice in the throat.

Later, Josh told police, he went back to his bedroom because he heard his playmate moaning. He then stabbed her again. "That's not the way he is; he's never hurt anybody," says Missy Phillips.

After confessing to the murder, Josh was arrested and taken into custody. Four days after Josh was arrested, Maddie was buried.


Behind The Facade

CBS News

June 12, 2000

In the aftermath of the crime, the Cliftons mourned for their daughter. In a different way, the Phillips mourned for their son.

They had tried to raise their son to be a good person, and now he was accused of murder. His parents said that Josh seemed completely normal. His half brother Dan describes Josh as a "happy kid."

"He likes to read; he likes to work on the computers; and he likes to spend time with us," says Missy Phillips.

"There's very few times that we ever did anything that Josh didn't do with us," she says.

Even Jessie Clifton, Maddie's older sister, says that Josh seemed to be a "pretty decent kid." Father Steve Clifton says that Maddie liked to play with Josh. But he also calls Josh a "monster" for killing his daughter.

At A. Philip Randolph Academies of Technology, where Josh was a ninth grader, he was not a problem student. His teachers say he didn't stick out at all. "I don't know the monster; I knew the silly little boy in my class," says one, Edwina Harris.

She says that he wasn't a loner and that other kids liked him. "He was funny," Harris says. "He made them laugh."

Despite this, Josh was tried as an adult for Maddie's murder, a fact that makes his father angry.

"To put any 14-year-old, not only mine, but any 14-year-old in prison for the rest of their lives, that's just ludicrous," he said before the trial.

Steve and Missy Phillips hoped that Josh would be convicted of second-degree murder, or even manslaughter. If convicted of those charges, he would be eligible for release while still young.

To help bolster Josh's case, his attorney hired a psychologist to see if Josh had any hidden problems. Josh told the psychologist, Tom Bowery, that he had not been not anxious or depressed at all. He also said that he loved his parents.

"This is not what I would've seen as the typical kind of sociopathic, wanting to kill, wanting to maim, deriving-pleasure-from-the-pain-of-others kind of kid," says Bowery. "I don't think that's true at all."

Josh says that he tried his best to avoid thinking about the murder. "That's one of the reasons I like to read because if I'm reading I can't think about anything else."

Josh did say, however, that he was afraid of his father. "He was very terrified of his father whenever two kinds of circumstances arose," Bowery says of Josh.

"Whenever he was afraid that he had done something wrong or whenever his father was angry at anyone," Bowery adds.

"If I did something wrong," Josh says, "he always had kind of a short temper, and I sometimes I never knew what he'd do." Josh says that fear caused him to panic when he hit Maddie with the ball.

"Looking back on it now, there's some things I did that probably would have handled differently," Steve Phillips says. "I don't know if that would've made any difference."

Another exert, a neurologist hired by Josh's attorney, found that Josh has "bilateral frontal lobe lesions," which can impair judgment as well as cause panic. But the judge didn't allow this evidence to be presented in court.

In July, Josh's trial began. There was a great deal of evidence against him: the baseball bat, the knife and Josh's tennis shoes, stained with Maddie's blood. But the most damning piece was Josh's confession.

In a surprise move criticized by many experienced defense lawyers, Josh's lawyer, Richard Nichols, decided not to call any witnesses. The entire defense was a closing argument.

The jury returned after only two hours with a verdict of first-degree murder, which means that Josh will spend the rest of his life in prison. His family plans to appeal.

There is one more piece of this puzzle, which may shed a little light on the crime. According to prosecutor Harry Shorstein, in the half hour preceding the murder, Josh was looking at violent pornographic Web sites on his home computer.

Shorstein believes that this evidence, ruled inadmissible and not presented at the trial, points to an explanation.

He believes that the photos Josh looked at could have triggered his violence - especially if Josh really did have a brain lesion impairing his judgment.

The Cliftons agree: "I believe had he not access to the materials he had, that Maddie would be sitting here right now," Sheila Clifton says.

Steve Phillips places some of the responsibility for Maddie's murder on the victim herself. If she hadn't come over, he says, none of this would have happened.

Neither family has spoken to the other since the crime. Neither plans to move. "As hard as it is to stay here, it would be just as hard to leave Maddie's house behind," says Steve Clifton.

What would Josh say to Maddie's parents if he could speak to them?

"I'd beg for forgiveness," he says. "That's all I could say; there's nothing else I could say. I guess I'd say I'm sorry but that wouldn't be enough."


Phillips sentenced to life

By Kathleen Sweeney - Times-Union staff writer -

Saturday, August 21, 1999

BARTOW - They may only have memories of the star basketball player with the Kool-Aid smile and big brown eyes, but the family of an 8-year-old Jacksonville girl finally saw some justice yesterday when her killer was sentenced to life in prison.

''To Joshua Phillips we have but one thing to say. How dare you? How dare you take Maddie from us for no reason? She was a beautiful gift from God to us all, and your friend, and you brutally murdered her,'' Steve Clifton said, turning to his 15-year-old neighbor awaiting his sentence in court. ''May God rest your soul.''

Circuit Judge Charles Arnold's life sentence was mandatory after Phillips was convicted last month of the first-degree murder of Maddie Clifton, the Lakewood girl whose disappearance and slaying in November sparked a citywide outpouring of grief. She was beaten and stabbed, and her body was found under Joshua Phillips' waterbed a week later.

Richard Nichols, Phillips' attorney, said he plans to appeal. He has 30 days.

Before Phillips was sentenced, the Cliftons told him for the first time how the heinous crime shattered their lives.

But first, Phillips' family told the Cliftons they were sorry for their loss, and for the first time Joshua Phillips expressed some remorse.

In the small Polk County courtroom, the Cliftons listened to their neighbors talk of a young man who they said has never shown a hint of violence - a young man they called loving, caring and generous.

Dan Phillips, Joshua's older brother, said he sees Maddie's image when he looks at his own 6-year-old girl.

''I have thought of your daughter very often,'' he told the Cliftons. ''Then, I think of my little brother. . . . When I look at him, I still see a baby.''

He said Joshua Phillips, whose lips quivered as his brother spoke, may not have shown much remorse publicly but wept privately.

''I know in my heart my brother is remorseful for what has happened, but he's still a boy,'' Dan Phillips said.

Phillips' mother then said she believes her son's action came from bilateral frontal lobe lesions, a condition that can cause a person to panic or stifle impulses and can impair someone's capacity to judge future consequences.

''I cannot undo what is done and there is not a day that passes that I don't think about Maddie and her family that loves her,'' she said. ''I'm sorry for their grief, but I cannot repair their heartbreak any more than I can repair our own.''

With those expressions of remorse, Phillips' other brother, Ben, told the court Maddie's uncle was once convicted of a crime and he was allowed to serve his time and resume his life.

Then, without specifics, the defendant's father accused Jacksonville police of perjury and said State Attorney Harry Shorstein and his chief assistant, Jay Plotkin, pursued a first-degree murder conviction to further their own political careers.

''For the state to prosecute a 14-year-old for first-degree murder is ludicrous and obscene,'' Steve Phillips said. ''Mr. Shorstein and Mr. Plotkin should be ashamed of themselves in this manner. Their actions were carefully plotted for the press and to further their own political gains.''

Shorstein later said there was no doubt Phillips should be tried as an adult, and the judge agreed.

''This hearing brings a sad end to one of the most tragic proceedings of one of the most heinous crimes in our city's history,'' Shorstein said. ''Everyone has suffered, everyone has lost. Only the system of justice has prevailed.''

The Cliftons then spoke for the dancer, basketball player, daughter and sister who's voice will never be heard, whose dream of becoming a drummer or eye doctor ended with her death.

Maddie's mother, Sheila, said no one will ever understand how her daughter's murder has impacted her life. It has left her devastated, shattered, heartbroken and permanently scarred, she said.

''I will never see Maddie play again,'' Sheila Clifton said. ''I will never see Maddie fulfill her dreams.''

Maddie's sister, 12-year-old Jessica, has stayed strong throughout the search, court proceedings and media circus and said she's been able to help her parents through the hardest time in their lives.

She said she misses her ''sissy'' and knows when Maddie is in her room watching over her. For that, she is thankful. But she doesn't understand why the neighbor Maddie considered a best friend harmed her sister.

''I don't know why God wanted Maddie to leave so early in her life, but we all have to learn to accept that,'' she said.

Before sentencing Phillips, Arnold denied Nichols' request for a new trial and a motion to sentence Phillips as a juvenile. He also upheld his decision not to allow a doctor's deposition in lieu of testimony.

But he praised Nichols, who has been criticized for not presenting a defense at trial. The judge called his defense admirable and said those criticizing him ''didn't know what they were talking about.''

Finally, Arnold told Phillips what he thought of his ''monstrous'' acts.

''I do not perceive you to be a child. Your monstrous act in causing the death of Maddie Clifton made you an adult. . . . I'm certain that on Judgment Day, you, Joshua Earl Phillips, will be given a far harsher sentence than I can impose,'' Arnold said, quoting Christ's words from Luke 17: ''It would be better if a millstone were hung around your neck and that you were thrown into sea than to cause harm to a child.''

Phillips and his family didn't say a word before leaving the courtroom.

But outside the courthouse, photographers surrounded the family.

''Get out of my way,'' Steve Phillips yelled before shoving a Tampa videographer. ''You're blocking my way.''

As for the Cliftons, they said they want to move on with their lives.

Though Phillips will most likely spend the remainder of his life behind bars, Sheila Clifton said it's not much consolation.

''I think Maddie is watching over all of us,'' she said. Now she plans to ''remember Maddie and what a pleasure she was to be around.''


Jury finds Phillips guilty of first-degree murder

Wednesday, July 8th 1999 -

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."



home last updates contact