Madeline Soto's body found days after teen's disappearance, Orange County deputies say

The body of 13-year-old Madeline Soto, who was last seen on Monday morning, has been found, the Orange County Sheriff's Office said.

The teen's body was found off Hickory Tree Road in Osceola County around 4:30 p.m. Friday.

During a press conference, officials said the body found was wearing clothing similar to what Maddie was last wearing. 

This update comes after Friday afternoon's press conference where Orange County Sheriff John Mina revealed that detectives are "confident" that the girl is dead, and was allegedly killed by her mother's boyfriend Stephan Sterns. 

On Friday afternoon, SKYFOX flew over an area on Old Hickory Tree Road where a multi-agency search was underway with crews from St. Cloud police, Kissimmee police, the Orange County Sheriff's Office and the Osceola County Sheriff's Office. A spokesperson from the Kissimmee Police Department confirmed to FOX 35 at the time that the search was for Madeline Soto. 

This area is where Sterns was last seen between 1 and 2:30 p.m. on Monday, officials said during Friday's press conference. He was driving his silver Lincoln MKZ with a flat tire, and is believed to have been changing his tire in this area. 

TIMELINE: Everything we know about the Madeline Soto case so far 

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SKYFOX flew over a multi-agency search for Madeline Soto that has taken over the area near Nolte Road in St. Cloud on Friday afternoon. 

Deputies believe that Madeline Soto was never dropped off at Hunter's Creek Middle School on Monday morning, and was dead before then. They also said Sterns allegedly moved her body in the morning hours of that day after killing her in Kissimmee.

"We believe he moved her body in those early morning hours, and all that is still under investigation," Sheriff Mina said. 

Video evidence shows Sterns discarding items in a dumpster at a Kissimmee apartment complex at 7:45 a.m. on Monday, which was later recovered and identified as Madeline Soto's backpack and school-issued laptop.

STEPHAN STERNS: Body language expert assesses Stephan Sterns' body language in Zoom interview with Jenn Soto

There's also video evidence of Sterns returning to his neighborhood, with Madeline Soto visible in that vehicle. Sheriff Mina, however, said that the teenager was already dead at this time.


Stephan Sterns was arrested and booked into the Orange County jail on charges of sexual battery and possession of child sexual abuse material after detectives found "disturbing" images on his phone, the Orange County Sheriff's Office said. (Orange Co

Sterns was arrested on Wednesday night on sexual battery and child sex abuse material possession charges. On Friday morning, he was transferred from the Orange County Jail to Osceola County. As of Friday afternoon, Sterns has not spoken to anyone about his alleged involvement in the case. More charges could be brought about Sterns in the future, but that's still under investigation, according to the Kissimmee Police Department.

Officials are in contact with Jenn Soto and do not have a reason to believe at this time that she is a suspect in this case.

JENN SOTO: Madeline Soto's mom, Jenn Soto, speaks with FOX 35; would-be suspect appears in background

The case has since been turned into a homicide investigation and the Kissimmee Police Department has taken the lead.