Madeline Soto 13-year-old Missing Florida girl found to be dead

Madeline Soto

The body of missing Florida teenager Madeline Soto was discovered in a wooded location Friday afternoon, according to the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, hours after the department stated that the 13-year-old had died.

Her mother’s boyfriend is accused of transporting Madeline Soto body, and the matter is being investigated as a homicide, Sheriff John Mina said during a news conference earlier today.

Osceola County Sheriff’s Office search crews discovered Madeline Soto’s corpse around 4:30 p.m. in a forested area off Hickory Tree Road, according to an update from the Orange County Sheriff’s Office.

Madeline Soto’s family was alerted. We do not have any additional information to provide at this time. Kissimmee Police Department is the main agency in this homicide investigation. “That work continues,” the sheriff’s office stated.
The sheriff’s office previously said Madeline Soto was last seen Monday morning when her mother’s boyfriend, Stephan Sterns, 37, dropped her off a few blocks from Hunter’s Creek Middle School in Orlando.

Evidence now reveals she was never dropped off near her school that morning, Mina said in a Friday press conference.

Sterns, who authorities call the “prime suspect” in the case, was arrested Wednesday night on separate charges of sexual battery and possession of child sexual abuse material after detectives found “disturbing images” and videos that were “criminal, and sexual in nature” during a forensic examination of his phone.

It is believed Madeline was killed in Kissimmee, where her family lived in an apartment, and that Sterns moved her body in the early morning hours Monday, Mina said.

“We have evidence that shows Stephen Stern’s returning to the complex and Madeline was visible in that vehicle. We believe she was already dead at that time,” the sheriff said. Authorities did not state what time that footage was captured.
Video evidence recovered by authorities showed Sterns discarding items in a dumpster at the Kissimmee apartment complex at 7:35 a.m. on Monday February 26. Detectives later recovered Madeline Soto’s backpack and her school-issued laptop from the dumpster.

Detectives informed Madeline Soto’s mother about her suspected death Thursday night. She is not considered a suspect in the investigation.

The Kissimmee Police Department will take over the case now that it has transitioned into a homicide investigation.

Kissimmee Police Chief Betty Holland had asked the public to come forward with tips as the search for the child was ongoing.

Sterns was observed driving a silver 2010 Lincoln MKZ on Monday between 1 and 2:30 p.m. along State Road 192, Old Hickory Tree, and Nulty roads. It is thought he had a flat tire and was seen fixing it in this location.

Mina stated that Sterns had not spoken to anyone about the case. He has been transported to the Osceola County Jail, where he is being held on capital sexual battery allegations brought by Kissimmee police. For more information click.

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