in

Eighteen Years Gone.

November 1998, Jacksonville, Florida

A quiet suburban neighborhood in what would one day be dubbed “The Most Average City in America”. 

A quiet boy, all of fourteen Josh Phillip’s, invited his then-neighbor, Maddie Clifton, all of eight, to his house to play.

This day would change the course of the Philips’ and Cliftons’ lives forever when Maddie never came home.

For one week, The Cliftons, The Phillips, and the neighborhood along with JSO searched until that fateful day when Josh’s mom went to clean his room and she smelled an odor emanating from somewhere in his room. When she looked under his bed, there was Maddie’s body.

So began one of the most infamous and well-known murder cases of the 21st Century. Even if you’re not from Jacksonville, you probably know the names, Josh Phillips/Maddie Clifton. 

Subsequently, Josh was sentenced at the age of 15 to life in prison.

Flash forward to 2012

The Supreme Court ruled that it was unconstitutional for minors to be sentenced to life terms, therefore, roughly 2,000 cases were eligible for resentencing, Josh Phillips included.

Flash forward to November 17, 2017.

Nineteen years and some odd days since Maddie’s murder. Josh Phillips once again sat in a Jacksonville courtroom, now all of thirty-three, Josh, and his defense team were hoping for a new sentence of 40 years with time served, meaning Josh would be released in 21 years. But Maddie’s family and the Prosecution wanted him to be resentenced to life. Guess who won? 

Josh Phillips will spend the rest of his life in prison, Florida doesn’t have parole, so he has no chance of ever being released, however, his case will be reviewed after the 25-year mark, whatever that means, Josh Phillips could be back in court as early as 2023. 

Now, I want to be crystal clear, I IN NO WAY CONDONE WHAT JOSH DID TO MADDIE. HE IS A MURDERER, THERE’S NO QUESTION ABOUT THAT. But the resentencing got me feeling some kind of way.

I have a B.A. in Psychology, but that doesn’t mean I’m an expert in the field. But what I do believe is that the Psychology of this particular case is not like most.

I feel that Josh Phillips should have gotten the 40-year sentence. Now, I don’t know him personally, but I do know that human brains aren’t fully developed until the age of 26. Since we don’t treat 14-year-olds and 26 years the same in society, why do we do the same in courtrooms?

Why would Josh place Maddie’s body under his bed? Why didn’t he just get help when he accidentally hit her with the ball they were playing with?

I think because Josh came from an abusive home, more so, his father, who apparently was not the nicest man, I think Josh was so fearful of how his father would react to Maddie’s injury, that Josh killed her to silence her. 

I honestly think that this case was a really really terrible accident that wasn’t handled the way it should have been. 

The irony of it?Josh’s father died in 2001. 

As the 20 year anniversary of this creeps closer every year, I think a lot about this case, especially since it was in the spotlight more. 

I hope that Josh does as well as he can in jail, and has the best life he can.

I hope Maddie’s sister can learn to forgive Josh, if not for herself, for Maddie.

I hope both the Clifton’s and Phillip’s families can go on with their lives as best as possible. In scenarios like this, no one wins.

If you or someone you know is a victim of abuse, please visit http://www.thehotline.org/resources/victims-and-survivors/

http://victimsofcrime.org/about-us/support-our-work