13-Year-Old Still Missing After Mom's Boyfriend Charged With Possessing Child Sex Abuse Material

Florida authorities arrested the last person who saw Madeline Soto after they found contents on his phone depicting criminal sexual acts that took place at the family home.

A Florida man who is dating the mother of a missing 13-year-old was arrested on Wednesday for allegedly possessing child sexual abuse material on his phone.

Stephan Sterns, 37, the last person who saw missing 13-year-old Madeline Soto, was taken into custody on charges of sexual battery and possession of child sexual abuse material, the Orange County Sheriff’s Office announced.

Soto was reported missing on Monday and was last seen with Sterns, who authorities said in an earlier press conference had dropped her off near her school. Soto’s mom, Jenn Soto, discovered that evening, when she went to go pick her daughter up, that Madeline never made it to school that day.

Missing 13-year-old Madeline Soto via Orange County Sheriff's Office Fla.
Missing 13-year-old Madeline Soto via Orange County Sheriff's Office Fla.
Orange County Sheriff's Office Fla.

According to Orange County Sheriff John Mina, Soto left her phone at her Kissimmee home, and digital forensics discovered messages she sent that stated that when she turned 13 on Feb. 22, she wanted to “go live in the woods.”

Jenn Soto told FOX affiliate WOFL there were surveillance footage that showed the girl hanging out in the church parking lot after she was dropped off for school.

“I’m trying to hope for the best, but I’m scared for her,” the mother told the outlet. “I want her to be okay; I want her to be safe… I don’t want her to come back harmed. I just want her back — whatever that means, I just want her back.”

Sterns was arrested on Wednesday night during the investigation after police found “images and videos that were criminal, and sexual in nature” on his phone according to the announcement.

According to an emergency arrest warrant shared with HuffPost on Thursday, police said Sterns claimed that he “accidentally performed a factory reset on his phone” the same day Soto was reported missing. Police said in the warrant that there is probable cause to believe that Stern “was in possession of” child sexual abuse imagery and had attempted to erase it from his phone.

It’s unclear whether the contents found on Sterns phone depicted Madeline Soto, but Sheriff’s said the “crimes were committed at the family home in Kissimmee.”

Stern was not charged in connection to Madeline’s disappearance, but is considered the prime suspect in that case.

In a statement shared with HuffPost on Thursday, the Orange County Sheriff’s Office said there have been “no substantive updates” and that investigators are still searching for the missing girl.

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