Madeline Soto: What we know about 13-year-old’s disappearance in Florida

Police in Florida say that they do not believe that they will find 13-year-old Madeline Soto alive after she failed to show up for school in Kissimmee, Florida on Monday morning.

After a desperate four-day search, the local sheriff’s office is “confident” she is dead and efforts are now underway to find her body.

Her mother’s boyfriend, Stephan Sterns, is the lead suspect in the case and remains in custody on sexual battery and possession of child sexual abuse material charges.

Here is everything we know about Madeline Soto so far.

When did Madeline Soto go missing?

Initially, Madeline Soto, 13, was reported missing on Monday 26 February at around 8.30am.

Orange County Sheriff’s Office said she was last seen off Village Park Drive in Kissimmee, near Orlando, heading to school.

Madeline was described as white, standing 5’1”, with blonde hair and blue eyes. She was wearing a green sweatshirt, black shorts and white Crocs.

Her mother’s boyfriend, Stephan Sterns, said he had dropped her off close to, but not outside, Hunter’s Creek Middle School.

However, she never showed up for class and it was then reported that her mother only discovered Madeline was missing when she went to pick her up later that day.

More than 50 law enforcement personnel spent the days following Madeline’s disappearance searching for her in nearby woodland. Officers had found messages on her phone that she said she wanted to live in the woods when she turned 13.

Orange County Sheriff’s Office deputies search woods in Kissimmee for missing teenager Madeline Soto

(Orange County Sheriff’s Office/X)

Officials believe Madeline Soto is dead

Sheriff John Mina said he had met with Madeline’s mother on Thursday night to tell her he was “confident” that her daughter was dead and that his deputies were now looking for her body.

The sheriff explained on Friday that OCSO has video evidence, 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 said at Friday’s briefing.

Mother’s boyfriend Stephan Sterns is main suspect

On Wednesday 28 February, OCSO announced it had arrested Mr Sterns, following the discovery of “disturbing images” on his phone, which he had tried to delete. These photos and videos were “criminal and sexual in nature”, the office said.

The office shared a video of the suspect in handcuffs.

At Friday’s briefing, Sheriff Mina said that investigators believe Mr Sterns dumped Madeline’s belongings before moving her body, rather than take her to school as he had originally claimed.

Kissimmee Police Department has now taken custody of Mr Sterns and he is being held on sexual battery and possession of child sexual abuse material charges.

Madeline Soto was last seen on Monday 26 February 2024 near her school in Kissimmee, Florida

(Orange County Sheriff’s Office)

Kissimmee PD shared photos of Mr Stern’s car, which he was seen driving between 1pm and 2.30pm on 26 Feb. in the area of State Road 192 and Old Hickory Tree Road. It is believed he had a flat tyre at the time.

Madeline’s mother is not being considered a suspect at this time.

Tributes paid to Madeline

In a statement released on Friday afternoon, Orange County Public Schools Superintendent Dr Maria Vazquez paid tribute to their “precious student”.

“My thoughts and prayers go out to Maddie’s family and her school community,” Dr Vazquez said. “To lose a child so suddenly and tragically is extremely difficult especially for family and friends.

“Counsellors continue to be available for any student or staff member dealing with the news. I ask that you keep the entire Hunter’s Creek Middle School community in your prayers as they grieve the loss of one of their own.”

A prayer vigil was planned for Friday evening in response to the news.

Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button