Body found in California dumpster believed to be that of missing 8-year-old girl

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SANTA CRUZ, Calif. — A body found inside a dumpster at an arts complex is believed to be that of an 8-year-old girl who vanished while riding her scooter during a sunny summer weekend, police in California said Tuesday.

A 15-year-old boy was arrested at the Tannery Arts Center where the child’s body was found, according to the Santa Cruz Police Department. The boy’s name and the charges against him have not been released.

The Santa Cruz coroner’s office will confirm the identity of the remains but police said they are “absolutely heartbroken to announce that the body appears to be that of … Madyson Middleton.”

Photo: Santa Cruz Police Department

Madyson Middleton, 8, disappeared July 26, 2015, in Santa Cruz, Calif. (Photo: Santa Cruz Police Department)

Middleton was riding a white Razor scooter when she left her home Sunday afternoon on River Street in Santa Cruz, about 80 miles south of San Francisco, police said. With a helmet on her head, Middleton was wearing a purple knee-high dress and black leggings. Her long dark hair was pulled to the side in a braid.

She was spotted at the Tannery Arts Center, about a tenth of a mile away, shortly after 4:15 p.m. and that was the last time anyone saw her, police said.

It’s not clear what happened between the time Middleton arrived at the arts center and when officers found the body. An investigation is underway.

The little girl’s disappearance touched many. Police in Santa Cruz — a city of about 62,000 — used Facebook to distribute photos of Middleton and updates in their search for her. They posted four times about her in just about 24 hours, with those posts garnering tens of thousands of shares.

Investigators said they are “broken hearted and disappointed” at the discovery of a body they believe is the freckled girl they’ve been searching for.

“Our hearts are broken and our deepest sympathy to the family of Madyson Middleton,” California Highway Patrol Santa Cruz said in a tweet from the agency’s verified account. “We are grieving with the entire Santa Cruz community.”