Missing 13-year-old Madeline Soto Found Killed By 37-year-old Stephan Sterns

The body of missing 13-year-old Madeline Soto was found Friday afternoon in a wooded area, the Orange County Sheriff’s Office confirmed.

Search teams located the body around 4:30 p.m. off Hickory Tree Road in Central Florida.

Before the discovery of Soto’s body, law enforcement officials said they were “confident” 13-year-old Madeline Soto was killed by 37-year-old Stephan Sterns and that he moved her body.

Detectives discovered Soto was never dropped off at school on Monday, Feb. 26, Orange County Sheriff John Mina said during a press conference Friday afternoon.

“Instead we believe she was already dead at the time and that Stephan Sterns moved her body in the early morning hours on that day,” he said.

According to the arrest affidavit, Sterns told investigators he dropped Soto off for school Monday morning. Sheriff Mina clarified Friday that surveillance video from the area captured someone walking, but it was too grainy to confirm that the person seen was Soto.

The sheriff said video evidence shows Sterns throwing out items in a dumpster around 7:30 a.m. Monday at the apartment complex where he lived with Soto and her mother. Investigators went to that dumpster and recovered her backpack and school-issued computer.

More surveillance video shows Sterns returning to the complex in a silver sedan and Soto can be seen inside the car, according to investigators.

“We believe she was already dead at that time,” Mina said.

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