Tragic Discovery: Missing Florida Girl Madeline Soto Found Dead, Mother’s Boyfriend Suspected in Homicide Case

The Orange County Sheriff’s Office announced the discovery of 13-year-old Madeline Soto’s body in a wooded area on Friday afternoon.

Madeline Soto
Missing 13-year-old Madeline Soto found dead.

The tragic incident involving 13-year-old Madeline Soto has taken a distressing turn with the discovery of her lifeless body in a wooded area, as confirmed by the Orange County Sheriff’s Office on Friday afternoon. The circumstances surrounding her demise have escalated into a homicide investigation, with the primary suspect identified as Stephan Sterns, the boyfriend of Madeline’s mother.

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Earlier in the day, Sheriff John Mina shared crucial details at a press conference, revealing that Sterns is suspected of moving Madeline’s body. This unsettling development unfolded hours after authorities had expressed their belief in the teenager’s tragic fate. The investigation has taken a grim turn, now centering on Sterns as the key figure in a homicide case.

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Madeline’s remains were discovered around 4:30 p.m. by search teams from the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office in a wooded area off Hickory Tree Road, according to an update from the Orange County Sheriff’s Office. The family has been notified, but as of now, no additional information has been released.

The timeline leading up to Madeline’s disappearance has raised serious concerns. Initially reported missing on Monday morning, she was purportedly dropped off by Sterns a few blocks from Hunter’s Creek Middle School in Orlando. However, evidence presented on Friday contradicts this account, as Sheriff Mina disclosed in the press conference that Madeline was never dropped off near her school that morning.

Stephan Sterns, now labeled the “prime suspect,” was apprehended on Wednesday night on separate charges related to sexual battery and possession of child sexual abuse material. Disturbing images and videos were uncovered during a forensic examination of his phone. The investigation points to Kissimmee as the location of Madeline’s tragic end, with Sterns allegedly moving her lifeless body in the early hours of Monday.

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Video evidence recovered by authorities adds a chilling layer to the investigation. Sterns was observed discarding items in a dumpster at the Kissimmee apartment complex on Monday morning. Detectives later recovered Madeline’s belongings, including her backpack and school-issued laptop, from the same dumpster.

The Kissimmee Police Department has assumed control of the case now that it has evolved into a homicide investigation. Chief Betty Holland has urged the public to provide any relevant tips, underscoring the ongoing search for justice.

Sterns’ actions on the day of Madeline’s disappearance have come under scrutiny. He was reportedly seen driving a silver 2010 Lincoln MKZ on Monday afternoon, between 1 and 2:30 p.m., in the area of State Road 192 and Old Hickory Tree and Nulty roads. Authorities believe he may have had a flat tire and could have been seen changing it in that vicinity.

Sheriff Mina emphasized that Sterns has not cooperated or spoken to anyone regarding the case. Sterns has been relocated to the Osceola County Jail, where he is being held on capital sexual battery charges filed by the Kissimmee police. The community is left grappling with the distressing details of a tragedy that has unfolded, as authorities continue their efforts to piece together the events leading to Madeline Soto’s untimely demise.

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