Madeline "Maddie" Soto

Boyfriend Of Murdered Florida Teen’s Mom Arrested: Madeline Soto Found Dead

Madeline "Maddie" Soto
Madeline “Maddie” Soto, 13, and Stephan Sterns, 37 (File)

Hours after saying they thought the 13-year-old was dead, the Orange County Sheriff’s Office announced on Friday afternoon that the body of missing Florida girl Madeline Soto had been discovered in a wooded area.

At a press conference earlier in the day, Sheriff John Mina stated that her mother’s boyfriend is suspected of moving her body and that the case is being investigated as a homicide.

According to an update from the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, Madeline’s body was discovered by Osceola County Sheriff’s Office search teams at 4:30 p.m. in a wooded area off Hickory Tree Road.

The boyfriend of Madeline “Maddie” Soto’s mother has been arrested in connection with the disappearance of the 13-year-old girl from her home in Kissimmee, Florida.

“Madeline’s family has been notified. We have no additional information to release at this time. Kissimmee PD is the lead agency in this homicide investigation. That work continues,” the sheriff’s office said.

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.

Stephan Sterns, 37, is the prime suspect in the investigation.

Earlier Reporting:

The Disappearance of Madeline Soto

Madeline “Maddie” Soto went missing on February 26, 2024, sparking a massive search operation.

She was last seen by Stephan Sterns, her mother’s boyfriend. The Orange County Sheriff’s Office immediately launched an investigation into her disappearance, considering it a matter of utmost urgency.

A Florida Missing Child Alert was issued on February 27, 2024.

Stephan Sterns had been dating Maddie’s mother and was the last person to see her before she vanished. This fact immediately raised suspicions, leading investigators to focus their attention on Sterns as a person of interest.

The nature of their relationship and Sterns’ actions on the day of Maddie’s disappearance became crucial elements in the investigation.

Disturbing Discoveries on Sterns’ Phone

During the course of the investigation, detectives from the Orange County Sheriff’s Office uncovered disturbing images on Stephan Sterns’ phone.

These images, as well as videos, were of a criminal and sexual nature. The forensic examination of the phone also revealed attempts to delete evidence, indicating a potential cover-up.

Based on the findings from Sterns’ phone and the forensic analysis, authorities concluded that the alleged crimes were committed at Maddie’s home in Kissimmee. This discovery prompted the involvement of the local police, who took the lead in pursuing the sexual battery case against Sterns.

Read: Without A Trace: 18-Year-Old Colleen Perris Disappeared In Florida, September 2000

The specific details of the crimes and their connection to Maddie have not been disclosed to the public.

The Kissimmee Police Department arrested Stephan Sterns, 37, on charges of sexual battery and possession of child sexual abuse material. Although these charges are unrelated to Maddie’s disappearance, Sterns has now become the prime suspect in the case. He was taken into custody and transferred to the Orange County jail without bond.

Following his arrest, Stephan Sterns was brought in for an interview by both the Orange County Sheriff’s Office and the Kissimmee Police Department. However, before any significant questioning could take place, Sterns invoked his right to an attorney. This decision halted the interview and heightened suspicions surrounding his involvement in Maddie’s disappearance.

Sheriff John Mina of the Orange County Sheriff’s Office expressed the determination to obtain answers regarding Maddie’s disappearance. He emphasized that Sterns had an opportunity to cooperate with the investigation but chose not to.

“Stephan Sterns had an opportunity tonight to come clean with detectives and help lead them to information about Maddie’s disappearance,” Sheriff John Mina said in the X post. “Her loved ones deserve answers and OCSO and the Kissimmee Police will not stop until we find Maddie.”

Read: Without A Trace: Florida Mom, Gina Ferraiolo, Vanishes While Walking Her Dog

Detectives from both the Orange County Sheriff’s Office and the Kissimmee Police Department are conducting thorough searches and interviews to gather any information that might lead to Maddie’s whereabouts. Despite their efforts, as of the time of writing, there have been no substantive updates in the search for Maddie.

“OCSO is still actively investigating Madeline’s disappearance and Sterns is considered the prime suspect at this time,” the sheriff’s office said.

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