Missing 13-Year-Old Found Dead; Police In Florida Allege Mom's Boyfriend Moved Body

Authorities said they believe Madeline Soto was killed Monday, on the morning of her disappearance.

The body of a missing 13-year-old girl who never made it to school on Monday was discovered Friday, just hours after law enforcement officials in Florida announced that they thought her mother’s boyfriend had moved the body, the Orange County Sheriff’s Office in Orlando announced.

In a statement shared with HuffPost on Friday, the sheriff’s office said the body of Madeline Soto was located in a wooded area about 4:30 p.m. local time and that her family has been notified.

Speaking at a news conference earlier Friday, Sheriff John Mina had said authorities were “confident” Madeline was dead after they reviewed disturbing video evidence that appeared to show her mother’s boyfriend, 37-year-old Stephan Sterns, throwing items into a dumpster behind their apartment building in Kissimmee.

A photo of missing 13-year-old Madeline Soto provided by the Kissimmee Police Department.
A photo of missing 13-year-old Madeline Soto provided by the Kissimmee Police Department.
Kissimmee Police Department

Madeline’s mother, Jenn Soto, told police she thought Sterns was taking her daughter to school but later found out that the girl never arrived there and she reported her missing.

Police had previously said Sterns had dropped Madeline off near her school, but they later learned he never dropped her off at all, Mina said. Video footage appears to show that when Sterns returned to the apartment complex, Madeline was in the car. Police say they think she was already dead at that time.

According to Mina, investigators searching the dumpster found Madeline’s backpack and her school-issued laptop.

Stern was arrested on Wednesday night on suspicion of sexual battery and possession of child sexual abuse material.

According to an emergency arrest warrant shared with HuffPost, police alleged that Sterns was in possession of several images that were criminal and sexual in nature and videos that depicted an underaged girl.

It’s unclear whether the girl in the videos was Madeline, but authorities said in an earlier news release that the “crimes were committed at the family home in Kissimmee.”

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

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