Police confirm death of missing Florida teen

By Ehren Wynder

March 1 (UPI) -- The body of a 13-year-old Florida girl who had been missing since Monday was found Friday, according to local authorities.

The Orange County Sheriff's Office confirmed Madeline Soto was found dead in Osceola County around 4:30 p.m. Friday.


The case has now turned into a homicide investigation.

"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.

The update came after a press conference Friday afternoon, during which Orange County Sheriff John Mina said detectives were certain the girl was dead, and efforts had shifted to locate her body.

Orange County sheriff's detectives marked her mother's boyfriend, Stephan Sterns, as a "prime suspect" in her murder. Sterns was arrested Wednesday on charges of sexual battery and possession of child sexual abuse materials.

Detectives said they found "disturbing images" and videos that were "criminal, and sexual in nature" on Sterns' phone. They said the crimes were committed at the family's home in Kissimmee and that Sterns had made an attempt to delete the materials.


Authorities believe Soto was killed in Kissimmee and that Sterns moved her body early Monday morning.

Sterns was previously believed to have dropped Soto off a few blocks away from Hunter's Creek Middle School in Orlando around 8:30 a.m. Monday, Mina had said.

Her mother, Jenn Soto, went to pick her up from school at 4:30 p.m. but was told she never attended school that day.

Further investigation, however, led detectives to believe Soto was never dropped off near the school.

Video evidence showed Sterns discarding items into a dumpster at a Kissimmee apartment complex around 7:45 a.m. Monday. The items were later found to be Soto's backpack and a school-issued laptop.

Detectives said Sterns was then seen around 8:19 a.m. at the family's Kissimmee apartment complex with the missing girl in the car. The sheriff's office, however, said they believe Soto was already dead then.

Officials said they are in contact with the girl's mother and do not believe at this time that she is a suspect in the case.

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