How Maddie Clifton Was Murdered By Her Friend, Joshua Philips

Josh Phillips murdered tiny Maddie Clifton in Jacksonville, Florida on November 3, 1998, then hid her body beneath his bed and slept directly above her body for a week before it was discovered.

When Joshua Phillips arrived to the Lakewood suburbs of Jacksonville, Florida, he was only a teenager. Aside from walking the family dog and perhaps attending neighborhood softball games, the Pennsylvania native found few acquaintances at the A. Philip Randolph Academies of Technology and few recreational outlets.

The tranquil village of less than 7,000 individuals was an idyllic change for his parents, who were both computer professionals. Phillips, on the other hand, became a lonely C-average student who spent most of his free time at home viewing porn. He did, however, become friends with his eight-year-old neighbor Maddie Clifton, which had horrific consequences.

On Nov. 3, 1998, she came by to play with Phillips and said that he unintentionally hit her in the eye with a baseball. He claimed that he pulled the crying child into his house and sliced her neck because he was afraid of his abusive father getting home. Phillips’ mother discovered her lifeless body under his bed after police spent six days looking for her.

Joshua Phillips’ Isolated Childhood

Joshua Earl Patrick Phillips was born in Allentown, Pennsylvania, on March 17, 1984. Steve, his father, was an alcoholic and drug user who harassed him and his mother on a regular basis. Phillips had two older half-brothers, Daniel and Benjie, with whom he spent his childhood blissfully – until the two families abruptly divorced.

Young Joshua

Despite Daniel being 11 years older, Joshua Phillips and his brothers appeared to have done everything together, from exchanging music and watching movies to visiting concerts across the Lehigh Valley. Their father and his wife, on the other hand, moved to Florida in 1997, taking Joshua with them.

In 2017, Daniel Phillips told First Coast News, “I wish he had never left Pennsylvania.” “But I could say it a million times and it wouldn’t make a difference.” He was taken away from me by [our father]. He would have taken me, and he would have taken Benjie as well. He would have been my child’s uncle and would have blended into my life here.

“However, when they arrived, he had no one, and that was my father’s choice.” It didn’t matter how much we pleaded with him not to, my father did what he was going to do, and no one would have stopped him.”

Maddie Clifton, on the other hand, had grown up in Lakewood, and that was the only place she had ever known. Clifton was born on June 17, 1990, and her loving parents Steve and Sheila had no reason to keep her from roaming the safe and sunny streets on her own.

But, while Maddie Clifton and Joshua Phillips had previously performed together, this would be the final time on Nov. 3, 1998.

How Maddie Clifton Was Murdered Brutally In Cold Blood

Clifton crossed the street to join Joshua Phillips, who was playing baseball in the front yard. Because both of his parents were at work, he claimed to have agreed, but then accidently hit her in the eye with his ball. He carried the screaming girl into his house, strangled her, and struck her with his bat, fearful of the consequences.

Phillips placed her unconscious corpse under his bed in a desperate attempt to hush her before his father returned home. Clifton was reported missing at 5 p.m. by her mother, but she was never found. Phillips removed his bedding and did the unthinkable when she regained consciousness and began to groan around sundown.

Maddie Clifton

According to The Florida Times-Union, Phillips cut her throat and stabbed her seven times in the chest with his multipurpose Leatherman tool before replacing his waterbed mattress on the bed frame. Lakewood locals and perplexed authorities searched high and low for the missing girl. Even Phillips joined in on the first night of her disappearance.

Phillips stated, “I was putting myself in a fantasy world where nothing had happened.” “When I was a youngster, that was my go-to protection strategy for anything. I never made the choice… to disregard it. “I did it just now.”

According to The New York Times, authorities mistaken the stink of Clifton’s body for the smell of birds kept in Joshua Phillips’ room during three searches of his home. The FBI was called in after a dearth of responses from the two-street area, while hundreds of volunteers searched the woodlands and marshes and distributed posters promising a $100,000 prize.

The early hours of Tuesday, Nov. 10, hopes for Clifton’s safe return were crushed. Dunfee had spotted an unusual wet mark on her son’s bedroom floor before noticing a damaged and taped-together part of his bed frame. That’s when she noticed Clifton’s lifeless legs and dashed outside to contact the cops.

Dunfee told CBS in 1999, “I only indicated to where they needed to look.” “I was unable to enter.”

An Inside Look At Joshua Phillips’ Trial And Appeal Process

Police set up a perimeter around their newfound crime scene and detained the culprit, a 14-year-old boy, at his school. Joshua Phillips admitted to the crime and was charged with murder in the first degree. Phillips’ trial started on July 6, 1999, and he was tried as an adult. He didn’t say anything the entire time.

Prosecutors claimed the murder was sexually motivated since Clifton wasn’t wearing all of her clothes when officers found her, according to Jacksonville News 4. Phillips’ lawyer, Richard D. Nichols, said that her clothing was ripped off as he carried her into his room, and that her death was “an act that began as an accident and developed through fear that bordered on lunacy.”

Clifton’s body eventually revealed no evidence of sexual assault. During the two-day trial, the defense did not call a single witness, and jurors deliberated for just over two hours before finding Phillips guilty of first-degree murder. The 15-year-old was condemned to a life sentence in prison with no chance of release.

Phillips completed his high school graduation and took college courses via mail during the first few years of his term. He tutored other inmates, assisted them with their appeals, and went to religious services with them. According to The Florida Times-Union, Phillips stated in 2008 that he wasn’t sure if he deserved a second chance but that he urgently desired one.

“Perhaps I deserve to die in prison,” he continued, “but I can’t look at it that way.” “It’s a cop-out to do that.” Why would I bother to try to learn something? Why would I want to work on myself? Why would I strive to help anyone if I’m just going to perish in this place?”

Joshua Phillips refused to send a letter of apology to the Cliftons, claiming that they deserved to hear one in person. Sheila Clifton, unsurprisingly, turned down the offer, claiming that his life term for the murder of her daughter was more than sufficient punishment. An appeals court eventually agreed and upheld the conviction.

Despite being given a second sentencing hearing in 2016, Josh Phillips was re-sentenced to life in prison in November 2017 and November 2019. The latter decision, on the other hand, is set to be reviewed in 2023, and could result in Phillips’ release.


11 thoughts on “How Maddie Clifton Was Murdered By Her Friend, Joshua Philips

  • June 28, 2022 at 4:14 pm

    He should be freed as he has certainly looked for Gods forgiveness and received it as well. He was a child and can not be held accountable for the same actions that an adult would suffer. Besides who on earth knows beyond a doubt how much a person must suffer until they have paid for the act of murder. If it is thought that it is indeed life then wouldn’t it be more merciful especially if that person is also a child to put them out of their misery and put them to death. If someone doesn’t agree with that statement then how can they agree that life imprisonment is the better option.

    • June 28, 2022 at 10:27 pm

      Donna you must have children yes? I had a 17 year shoot himself in the head. There is nothing in life more painful than to bury your child. Maddie is dead. She paid with her life. She can never go home and see her parents because she is dead. It is unfair to say he was a child when he did it so he should be freed. Maddie doesn’t get that option. A life for a life. I do think he was a child and he didn’t mean for this to happen. I agree. I am sure it’s hard to live with I agree. However again, he gets to live with it. Maddie doesn’t. It is my opinion that only the parents of this child have a right to speak in regards to this man’s crime. He killed their child. If they chose mercy then he should get it. I shows that he is not thinking about this family still with the fact he won’t write a letter to them. He thinks he has to say it in person is noble. No it’s not. He should be asking himself how it would make those people feel to have to do that. He wants to do it for him not them or he would write the letter.

    • June 28, 2022 at 11:35 pm

      You mean forgiveness from a god who could have intervened, but instead just watched on and did nothing while the boy murdered the innocent little girl?

      God is either:

      a) A psychopath who takes pleasure in allowing little girls to be murdered without doing anything to stop it


      b) non-existent

      My money’s on (b)

      • June 30, 2022 at 7:32 pm

        Wrong. God is neither a nor b. God gave her a life and a will, and he gave him a life and a will. He does not intervene on our will, but he does hold eternity in his hands. We allowed evil to enter this world when we chose it by a decision of the will he gave us. Now it is here, and it rules the earth. Now life on earth plays out and we blame him.. We shake our fists at a God who not only saw us literally ruin his good creation but then chose to enter into human flesh, walk the earth, lead people to heaven & let us kill him, rip off his beard, stab thorns into his head and crush his heart while we fought over his clothing and watched him give his life for ALL who would eventually see the truth and follow him into eternity which will be the new earth (the ultimate do over) in which we will be set back to what was the original design and purpose and that is for us as his creation to love him and glorify him forever in his image and likeness in full love for eachother and our creator.

        It is sad. A very sad sad story. This little girl is in heaven with a very misunderstood and loving God. And this boy would be too if he truly recognizes his evil and lays it at the feet of Jesus and accepts his forgiveness and grace that is almost too hard to believe is true. Except I and millions of others without a doubt know that it is.

      • July 5, 2022 at 6:59 pm

        I don’t care about God’s existance, I just wanna say you clearly have a bias. You can’t go from ”death happens” to ”GOD CLEARLY TAKES PLEASER IN THE DEATH OF CHILDREN”. You sound like a maniac and if you just want to antagonize believers, do better cause this sad attempt sucked.

    • July 1, 2022 at 1:59 pm

      I see your point but, it really depends on the psychiatric condition of the teenager. Perhaps, he had a future career as a psychopath that stopped by this. He himself considers that probably is not good that they release him. Probably, he knows that he is dangerous. There is no treatment for a psychopath, not yet. They only come to make others suffer. He does not show remorse.

      • July 5, 2022 at 7:44 pm

        Ok, psychopathy is not sadism, you are confusing them. A person can have no empathy, no remorse, no fear and no guilt and still not be a criminal or an abuser. You can’t treat psychopathy but sometimes you just don’t have to. You still need a reason to harm people. I think it’s important to note since the way you put it it’s essentially that a porcentage of the population is broken since birth and it’s not the case.
        Also, you have no idea if this guy is psychopathic. It’s a very strong assumption based on nothing but his crime. Psychopathic people have a personality disorder, it’s not not one action that makes the diagnosis but patterns of behaviour. He didn’t molest, rape or torture the girl, so it’s silly to think he’s a sadist. Obviously what he did is insane, trying to cover for accidentally hurting a girl with a ball by murdering her. But we don’t know him, so let’s not make crap up about him, ok?

    • July 6, 2022 at 6:55 am

      Are you out of your fucking head! you must be falling into earth from the outer space. the fucking child killed an innocent beautiful girl, and you are saying “He should be free has he certainly looked for God’s Forgiveness and he did receive it”. He deserve the punishment, let him rot in prison.Even though he is just a child he had committed a cold blooded murder.

  • July 7, 2022 at 10:21 am

    Was there any evidence that little Maddie had been in fact hit in the eye with the ball, as Joshua claimed? If so, it is conceivable that the boy acted in a state of fear and panic, as opposed to malice. In that case there may be case for the possibility of parole at some future date. Such a sad thing — two young lives taken.

  • July 7, 2022 at 10:11 pm

    God is REAL 1st and foremost. 2ndly, he did the crime and now it is the portion where he does the time. He does deserve it. It does not matter that he was a child. God does forgive but we are NOT God and we do not dismiss his punishment because he is forgiven. We may forgive but he still has to serve his consequences. A child was murdered, sexually assulted and physically abused across the street from her home. He needs to stay where he is because it will keep our kids safer. There is an urge within this boy who is now a man. You can’t be rehabilitated behind bars because there is no temptation or urges to fight. Everyone finds God in a cell, that is all you have behind bars. You need him and all you have is time. Will he still need/want God after he is released??? I don’t know but the first sentence he got was fair and just. They should keep it.

    • July 9, 2022 at 11:40 am

      There is no God you fool. You have zero evidence and you’ve been brainwashed probably since you were very young. Grow up


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