Florida man charged with killing his girlfriend’s 13-year-old daughter

FLORIDA – The prime suspect in the death of a 13-year-old Florida girl, Madeline Soto, has been formally charged with her murder. The charges were brought on two months after the teenager’s disappearance and subsequent demise.

The court records of Osceola County seen by The Post revealed that Stephan Michael Sterns, 37, was charged with first-degree murder on Wednesday. Sterns, who was in a relationship with Madeline’s mother when the girl vanished, is slated to make an initial court appearance on Thursday.

Formal charges were placed following the events beginning on February 26 when the educators at Madeline’s Orlando middle school noted her absence. Sterns claimed to have last seen Madeline, stating he had dropped her off at school that day.

Consequently, the police arrested Sterns on charges of sexual battery and possession of child sexual abuse material, following the discovery of videos and images on his phone, supposedly of his sexual abuse of a minor. Madeline’s body was found on March 1, with Sterns already a person of interest in her death.

The evidence leading to the charges against Sterns includes the authority’s claim to have video footage of Sterns with Madeline’s dead body in his vehicle and later discarding several items, including Madeline’s backpack and school-issued laptop, into a trash bin.

Police believe that Madeline had already been dead when moved by Sterns. Furthermore, an arrest affidavit from March indicated Sterns’ alleged sex abuse of Madeline since 2022, when she was only 11.

As the investigation progresses, authorities have yet to decide if they will pursue the death penalty for Sterns. Reports indicate that the jury trial has been scheduled for August 19, 2024.