Why Did Josh Kill Maddie Clifton?

As resentencing approaches, pieces of the murder still don’t add up.

Malinda Fusco
5 min readMar 28, 2022


Joshua Phillips (left and center) and Maddie Clifton (right); Source

On November 3rd, 1998, Joshua Phillips murdered his 8-year-old neighbor and hid her body under his bed for seven days. The motive and exactly what happened still remains a mystery.

Is this the story of an accident gone wrong or something more calculated and sinister?

Who were Josh Phillips and Maddie Clifton?

In November 1998, Josh Phillips was a 14-year-old boy living in Jacksonville, Florida with his mother and father, Melissa and Steve Phillips. Josh didn’t have the easiest childhood: his father was a violent drunk towards his mother and him. Even so, his teachers reported that he was an average student who was fun to have in class.

Maddie Clifton was an 8-year-old girl who lived next door to the Phillips. Despite the age difference, Josh and Maddie would often play outside and developed a friendship. Maddie’s parents weren’t concerned about their friendship since Josh was “quiet and friendly” towards their daughter.

However, that friendship proved deadly for Maddie Clifton when one of their play dates escalated to murder.

The Murder: Just the Facts

On November 3rd, 1998, Maddie Clifton was murdered by Joshua Phillips. That’s a fact. However, fact versus fiction gets a little blurred after that. The facts are this:

  • Maddie Clifton was found beaten with a baseball bat, throat slit, and stabbed multiple times.
  • She was found under Josh’s bed by his mother days after the murder on November 10th. Her body had remained under his bed from November 3rd-10th.
  • When she was found, she had no clothes on her lower body, although there was no forensic evidence of a sexual assault.

So how did Joshua Phillips explain Maddie’s murder? An accident that escalated to murder.

The Murder: Josh’s Story

According to Josh, Maddie’s murder was a bad decision that stemmed from an accident. This is the series of events as reported by Josh.



Malinda Fusco

I write about writing and true crime. ♡ Join Medium for full access: https://malindafusco.medium.com/membership