Florida police ‘confident’ missing Madeline Soto, 13, is dead after discovery of chilling video footage

Orange County Sheriff John Mina told reporters that he had video evidence the girl is dead

Dan Gooding
Friday 01 March 2024 19:32 GMT
Orange County sheriff says they’re ‘confident’ Madeline Soto is dead

Officials in Florida say they are “confident” that missing teenage girl Madeline Soto is dead and that it was her mother’s boyfriend who killed her.

The 13-year-old was reported missing on Monday morning in Kissimmee. Her mother’s boyfriend had said he had dropped her off at school, but Orange County Sheriff’s Office said Friday that she was never taken to school and that instead, they believed Stephan Sterns, 37, had killed her.

Sheriff John Mina told reporters that officers had met with Madeline’s mother on Thursday night to tell her they were “confident” her daughter was dead and that the search was now underway for her body.

“I wish we were here to tell you that we have found Madeline, but we have not found her,” the sheriff said at Friday’s briefing.

“Our detectives have determined that Madeline was never dropped off on the morning of February 26 near her school. Instead, we believe she was already dead.”

He explained how OCSO had video evidence which appeared to prove that, showing Mr Sterns throwing items into a dumpster behind their apartment building at around 7.35am. Those items included the teen’s backpack and her school-issued laptop.

“At 8.19am, we have evidence that shows Stephan Sterns returning to the complex and Madeline was visible in that vehicle. We believe she was already dead at that time,” the sheriff continued.

The Kissimmee Police Department is now taking over the case, with Mr Sterns now being held on capital sexual battery charges.

Kissimmee Police Chief Betty Holland said her officers were looking into Mr Stern’s movements on 26 February.

The department shared photos of Mr Stern’s car, which he was seen driving between 1pm and 2.30pm in the area of State Road 192 and Old Hickory Tree Road. It is believed he had a flat tyre at the time.

Sheriff Mina said that Madeline’s mother was not a suspect at this time. Earlier this week, it was reported she only knew her daughter was missing when she went to the school on Monday afternoon.

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