The 16-year-old boy accused in the assault and murder last July of 8-year-old Madyson "Maddy" Middleton made a brief appearance in court Tuesday morning to enter a not-guilty plea. As KRON 4 reports, the formal court proceeding was attended by a dozen members of Middleton's family who told the station they were there to try to keep the focus on the young girl they lost.

Adrian Gonzalez, who was 15 at the time of the alleged killing, will be tried as an adult and therefore could face life in prison without parole if convicted. His trial, though, won't begin until February 21, 2017.

Reports, some just via his social media presence, earlier depicted Gonzalez as a moody young man, with classmates calling him both "awkward" and "sweet," though his motives and the extent of the brutality of his crimes remain unclear. We do know that Middleton was allegedly bound with duct tape, sexually assaulted, strangled, and stabbed, and that her body was found stuffed in a recycling bin in the Tannery Arts Complex where both Gonzalez's and Middleton's families lived. The day the body was discovered, the teen had reportedly been hovering around peppering investigators with questions, and was standing near the recycling bin at the time the body was found.

Gonzalez, who like Middleton and other children who lived in the arts-focused housing complex, had free reign of the complex and was characterized as one of the older leaders of the kids who lived there. It's alleged that he lured Middleton to his family's apartment the evening of July 26, 2015, where she was murdered. She was almost immediately reported missing, and a search that gained national attention went on for the next 24 hours.

Gonzalez was named as the sole suspect, and has been held without bail ever since. He's charged with first-degree murder, with the special circumstances of sexual assault, kidnapping, and lying in wait.

Previously: 15-Year-Old Suspect Named, Charged As An Adult In Rape And Murder Of Maddy Middleton
Missing 8-Year-Old Found Dead In Santa Cruz Dumpster; Teen Neighbor Arrested