Search for Missing 13-Year-Old Girl Ends in Tragedy

KISSIMMEE, Florida – The body of a 13-year-old girl who went missing on her way to school earlier this week has been discovered in a wooded area, according to the Orange County Sheriff’s Office. The announcement came shortly after authorities revealed their belief that the girl’s mother’s boyfriend may have moved the body. The victim has been identified as Madeline Soto.

Law enforcement officials stated that Madeline’s body was found on Friday afternoon at approximately 4:30 p.m. in a wooded area. The girl’s family has been notified of the tragic discovery.

At a news conference earlier in the day, Sheriff John Mina stated that they were confident Madeline was deceased after reviewing disturbing video evidence. The footage allegedly showed Stephan Sterns, the boyfriend of Madeline’s mother, discarding items in a dumpster behind their apartment building in Kissimmee.

Madeline’s mother, Jenn Soto, initially believed Sterns was taking her daughter to school. However, after realizing Madeline never arrived at school, she reported her missing.

Authorities previously stated that Sterns had dropped Madeline off close to her school, but they later discovered that he had not dropped her off at all. Video footage apparently shows Madeline in the car when Sterns returned to the apartment complex. Police suspect she was already deceased at that point.

During their search, investigators found Madeline’s backpack and the laptop issued to her by the school discarded in the dumpster.

Sterns was arrested on Wednesday night on charges of sexual battery and possession of child sexual abuse material. Police allege that Sterns had criminal and sexual images, as well as videos depicting an underage girl, in his possession. The exact identity of the girl in the videos remains unclear, but authorities believe the crimes took place at the family home in Kissimmee.

Madeline’s mother is not considered a suspect in the ongoing investigation.