Madeline Soto was sexually abused by mother’s boyfriend for years, alleges arrest warrant

Stephan Sterns is accused of performing sexual acts on the victim when she was 11-years-old

Dan Gooding
Wednesday 06 March 2024 15:10 GMT
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Madeline Soto, the 13-year-old whose body was found days after she went missing in Florida, was allegedly subjected to sexual abuse by her mother’s boyfriend for years.

Newly-released arrest documents, issued on Monday and seen by The Independent, allege Stephan Sterns, 37, abused the girl when she was 11 years old at the family home in Kissimmee.

Madeline was reported missing on Monday 26 February, a few days after her 13th birthday, when Mr Sterns said he dropped her off for school but she never showed up for class.

On Friday lunchtime, Orange County Sheriff John Mina said he had told Madeline’s mother the previous evening that he was “confident” her daughter was dead. A few hours later, her body was found in a rural area of Osceola County.

Mr Sterns had been arrested on Wednesday 28 February, after officers discovered “disturbing” images on his phone.

The data behind those images and videos showed the abuse dating back to August 2022, when the victim was 11 years old, the affidavit states.

While the victim’s name has been redacted from the arrest warrant, the document also points to the abuse occurring at Mr Sterns’s address on Santa Maria Drive in Kissimmee, where “the victim, her mother and Stephan live”.

Madeline’s birthday matches that of the victim identified in the document.

The media was discovered despite Mr Sterns saying he had accidentally performed a factory reset of his phone the day Madeline vanished.

He is now being held on three charges, including two of sexual battery following the updated arrest warrant, as well as possession of child sexual abuse material. No charges have yet been brought over Madeline’s death.

Madeline Soto: Sheriff shares update on missing girl

On Friday, before Madeline’s body was discovered, Sheriff Mina said deputies had pieced together evidence that she was dead.

Security camera footage showed Mr Sterns disposing of items in a dumpster the day Madeline disappeared. These were found to be her backpack and school-issued laptop.

Mr Sterns was then seen shortly after in a car with Madeline, but Sheriff Mina said he believed the girl was dead at this point.

Kissimmee Police Department is now leading the investigation, treating it as murder. As of Tuesday afternoon, no further updates have been released.

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