Florida authorities locate body of 13-year-old Madeline Soto

KISSIMMEE, Fla. (Gray News) – Florida officials confirmed Friday afternoon that they located the body of Madeline Soto.

The Kissimmee Police Department and Orange County Sheriff's Office said the body of the 13-year-old boy, who went missing Monday, was found in a wooded area after a coordinated search near Hickory Tree Road.

Madeline's family has been notified of the discovery.

In a press conference On Friday, Orange County Sheriff John Mina said detectives discovered video evidence that led them to the area where they were “certain” the teen's body was.

Madeline's mother's boyfriend, Stephan Sterns, 37, is the main suspect in the case, authorities said.

Madeline Soto has been missing since she didn't arrive at school on Monday morning, one day after her 13th birthday.(WESH, ORANGE COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE, CNN)

Authorities said Sterns was the last person to confirm seeing Madeline on Monday morning.

Authorities said Madeline had just turned 13 when she was reported missing.

Police said Sterns was supposed to drop Madeline off at school in the morning, but staff members at Hunter's Creek High School in Orlando said she never arrived.

“Our detectives have determined that Madeline was never dropped off the morning of February 26 near her school,” Mina said. “Instead, we believe that she was already dead at that time and that Stephan Sterns moved her body in the early hours of that day.”

During Friday's news conference, Mina said video evidence shows Sterns throwing items into a dumpster at the family's Kissimmee apartment complex at 7:35 a.m. Monday morning.

Investigators later searched the dumpster and found Madeline's backpack and her school-issued laptop.

Less than an hour after Sterns was seen throwing items into the dumpster, the 8:19 a.m. video shows Sterns returning to the apartment complex with Madeline visible in the car with him. Mina said investigators believe Madeline was already dead at the time.

On Wednesday, Kissimmee police arrested sterns for sexual assault and possession of child sexual abuse material.

The detectives wrote in a Facebook post that “they discovered those disturbing images and videos when they forensically examined Sterns' phone. The search of his phone also revealed attempts to delete evidence.”

Detectives determined that the documented sexual crimes were committed inside the family's apartment.

Mina said that as of Friday afternoon, Sterns “hasn't spoken to anyone” about the case.

Sterns is being held in the Osceola County Jail on sexual abuse charges. As of Friday afternoon, he has not yet been charged in Madeline's death.

According to jail recordsHe is detained without bail.

Authorities have not said whether Madeline's mother will face any charges, but Mina said she is “not a suspect in this case.”

Kissimmee Police Department takes charge of the investigation as lead agency.

Authorities are asking anyone with information about the case to call Kissimmee police at 407-846-3333, the Orange County Sheriff's Office at 407) 254-7000 or submit an anonymous tip to Crimeline at 800-423-TIPS.

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