Suspect in missing 13-year-old death investigation waives court appearance

Writer: Nicholas Karsen
Published: Updated:

A 37-year-old man who is facing several charges in the disappearance of a 13-year-old girl in Osceola County has waived his first court appearance.

Stephan Sterns is the boyfriend of Madeline Soto’s mother, and the prime suspect in the missing persons investigation turned homicide investigation of her daughter.

Soto was reported missing on Feb. 26 after being sent to school by Sterns, the last person who had seen Soto.

It was discovered during the investigation that Soto was not dropped off at school but was already dead at the time of her disappearance.

Soto’s body was found in a wooded area in Osceola County.

During a press conference on Friday, Orange County Sheriff John Mina gave the grim update regarding the status of the investigation.

“Our detectives have determined that Madeleine was never dropped off on the morning of February 26th near her school. Instead, we believe she was already dead at the time,” said Mina. “We have video evidence that shows Stephen Sterns discarding items in a dumpster in that apartment complex in Kissimmee at 7:35 a.m. on Monday; detectives later recovered Madeline’s backpack and her school-issued laptop from that dumpster.”

While investigating Sterns’ home, it was discovered that he owned disturbing pictures and videos on his cell phone.

Upon his arrest, Sterns told investigators that he accidentally did a factory reset on his cell phone on the same day as Madeline’s disappearance.

Currently, Sterns does not face any charges regarding the murder of Soto; however, he does face charges of sexual battery and possession of child sexual abuse material.

The Orange County Sheriff’s Department have turned the investigation over to the Kissimmee Police Department on Friday.

There is a Southwest Florida connection in that Sterns has an address in North Port.

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