The housing complex is not only where Madyson Middleton lived, but also where the young boy who's accused of murdering her also lived and hung out while searchers were looking for the little girl.
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The mood turned hostile to outsiders as residents of the Tannery Arts Center, a unique artists' community on the outskirts of this small beach town, came to grips with the fact that this may have been an inside job.
During a news conference on Tuesday, Police Chief Kevin Vogel told reporters that the little girl was probably dead even before she was reported missing Sunday evening.
"It appears that she was lured to the suspect's apartment willingly," said Santa Cruz Police Chief Kevin Vogel. "Additionally, we've determined that Maddy was murdered inside of the suspect's apartment. She was then carried downstairs to the recycle bin."
RAW VIDEO: Santa Cruz girl's body found, suspect arrested
Police believe all of this happened in less than an hour, right after she disappeared while riding her scooter and before police were called Sunday evening.
At first, police and volunteers engaged in the search while operating under the assumption that she would be found alive.
Canine units were used to try to track her. Video shows one of the dogs very close to the bin where Maddy's body was eventually found. But she went undetected. Police say her body was hidden out of view.
PHOTOS: Police make grim discovery in search for Santa Cruz girl
It took the start of the second phase of the mission -- when it changed from search to recovery -- when the 8-year-old was found.
"It was a secondary and a more thorough canvas of the area that revealed Maddy's body," Vogel said.
Of the discovery of her body, Vogel said, "It was horrific; it was horrible."
The district attorney believes the 15-year-old suspect could be tried as an adult. Until then, his identity is protected as a juvenile. Neighbors say he was a good boy who loved yo-yo's.
"From what I know, he's very well-spoken and has very kind manners," said neighbor Terrance Keller. "So like I said, it's just a shocking situation altogether."
Neighbor and friend Yasmina Porter added, "If he did this it is still a horror and we need to figure out how to help everyone and especially Maddy's mom."
How Maddy was killed and whether she was molested will be determined by a coroner's examination.
Click here for full coverage on the disappearance and death of Maddy Middleton.
Neighbor says police are gathering evidence fr 3rd floor apt where the 15yo suspect lived . pic.twitter.com/0bQFbCZqRO— Janet O (@JanetONews) July 28, 2015
Much of the apt complex at the tannery roped off part of crime scene pic.twitter.com/zaSr8LXbSX— Janet O (@JanetONews) July 28, 2015
Investigators still on scene combing through evidence in he garage where Maddy's body found in dumpster pic.twitter.com/RPWbykLNNq— Janet O (@JanetONews) July 28, 2015
ABC7 News reporter Janet O and The Associated Press has contributed to this report.