JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - "Juvenile killer" Joshua Phillips took the stand on Wednesday and told the family of the 8-year-old he murdered back in 1998 that he was sorry and filled with remorse.
Phillips was only 14 years old when he murdered Maddie Clifton. He beat her in the head with a bat, shoved her body under his bed, then stabbed her with a knife after she kept making noise.
Nationally known child development expert Dr. James Garbarino also took the stand for more than two hours. His testimony focused on analyzing the “underdeveloped brain” of a juvenile. Garbarino interviewed Phillips in February and concluded that he could enter society as a changed man.
After Garbarino's testimony, Phillips took the stand and shocked the Clifton family and friends.
Through tears, Phillips told the Clifton family he was sorry. He said he did not value life as a 14-year-old boy as he does now. He said if he had valued it, then he would not have murdered Maddie.
The Clifton family sobbed together, holding hands as he talked. Sheila Clifton-DeLongis, the mother of Maddie, said over and over “I have been waiting 18 years for that”.
Then it was the family’s turn.
Sheila took the stand and talked about Maddie’s life through pictures on a bulletin board. She listened as the 911 calls from Nov. 3, 1998, which were played back over the speakers. She listened to a PSA on a local radio station that she had called in to help spread the word to find Maddie when she was still missing.
Next, her ex-husband Steve Clifton took the stand. He recalled being suspicious of Phillips and warning his two daughters not to play with him. He remembers the day they found out what happened to Maddie, discovering that her body was in the house across the street.
Lastly, Jessie Clifton, the older sister of Maddie, took the stand. She says Phillips was even playing with her as they search continued for six days. She will resume testimony Thursday morning.