Madeline Soto murder update: Mother’s boyfriend Stephan Sterns charged with first-degree homicide

Mugshot of Stephan Sterns
Stephan Sterns could face the death penalty if found guilty of killing Madeline Soto. Pic credit: Orange County Sheriff’s Office

The authorities in Kissimmee, Florida, have charged Stephan Sterns with the first-degree murder of teenager Madeline “Maddie” Soto.

Sterns was already facing multiple charges relating to sexual abuse of a child but is now accused of killing 13-year-old Madeline in February.

The suspect was the long-term boyfriend of Maddie’s mother, and the police now fear he had been abusing the child since at least 2019.

Maddie was reported missing on February 26 after her mother, Jennifer Soto, tried to pick her up after school but was told her daughter had not arrived at the school that day.

Sterns later told the cops that he had dropped Maddie off a few blocks from the school that morning.

The child’s body was found several days later in a wooded area. Sterns was considered a prime suspect throughout the investigation.

Stephan Sterns allegedly spotted disposing of Madeline Soto belongings on day she disappeared

On March 1, the Orange County Sheriff’s Office (OCSO) stated that surveillance footage taken at 7:35 a.m. on February 26 had shown Sterns disposing of Maddie’s belongings in a dumpster near the family’s Kissimmee apartment. The cops later found Maddie’s schoolbag in the dumpster.

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The OCSO also claimed that a surveillance camera captured Sterns driving back to the apartment complex at 8:19 a.m. with Maddie visible in the car. The police said they suspected Maddie was already dead.

Sterns voluntarily surrendered his cell phone to the police and, based on material found on the phone, was subsequently charged with sexual battery and possession of child sexual abuse material.

The crimes are reportedly linked to Maddie and are thought to date back to 2019.

Madeline Soto smiling in a family pic
Thirteen-year-old Madeline Soto’s life was cruelly cut short in February. Pic credit: Orange County Sheriff’s Office

The suspect was scheduled to appear in court yesterday in connection with the abuse charges; however, his defense team had the case postponed.

State Attorney said Stephan Sterns may face death penalty if found guilty of Madeline Soto murder

In a press conference yesterday, Kissimmee Police Chief Betty Holland confirmed Sterns had been charged with murder, and State Attorney Andrew Bain said they will decide over the next couple of weeks if they will seek the death penalty.

Chief Holland told reporters, “The evidence shows an individual that was entrusted to keep Madeline safe made calculated moves to dispose Madeline’s belongings and place her body in a wooded area before she was ever reported missing.”

The police did not say if they suspected Maddie’s mother, Jennifer Soto, of any wrongdoing, but Chief Holland stressed that she had been very cooperative with investigators during the investigation.

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