Suspect in Madeline Soto’s disappearance, death faces 60 new charges

The State Attorney’s Office has filed dozens of new charges against Stephan Sterns, the prime suspect in the disappearance and death of 13-year-old Madeline Soto.

On Monday, the State Attorney’s Office for the Ninth Judicial Circuit filed a total of 60 charges against Sterns. Those charges include: 8 counts of sexual battery on a child under 12, 5 counts of sexual battery with a child between the ages of 12 to 18 (familial/custodial authority), 7 counts of lewd or lascivious molestation, and 40 counts of unlawful possession of materials depicting sexual performance by a child (10 or more images).

As of Tuesday, Sterns has not yet been charged in connection with Madeline’s death.

On March 1, at around 4:30 p.m., Madeline was found deceased in a wooded area off Hickory Tree Road by members of the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office, according to a statement from the Orange County Sheriff’s Office.

Madeline’s body was found just 24 hours after Stern, the boyfriend of Jennifer Soto (Madeline’s mother), was arrested for possessing sexually explicit photos of the girl.

According to authorities, Sterns was the last person to see Soto before she went missing on February 26.

During law enforcement’s investigation into Madeline’s disappearance, the Kissimmee Police Department found several images and videos on Stern’s phone, which led to his arrest on charges of sexual battery with a child, capital sexual battery and possession of material depicting sexual performance by a child.

Sterns is currently being held without bond in the Osceola Department of Corrections.

“The State Attorney’s Office has been working closely with KPD and received evidence that gave us cause to file formal charges against Stern,” said State Attorney Andrew Bain on Tuesday, March 12. “We appreciate the thoroughness and detailed attention of their investigation and will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to build a strong case against the defendant.”

Sterns will be arraigned on the charges on Tuesday, April 2.

If convicted of sexual battery on a child under 12, which is a capital felony, Sterns would face a maximum punishment of life in prison or death, according to the State Attorney’s Office.

The charges of lewd or lascivious molestation are first-degree felonies, carrying a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted. Additionally, if Sterns is convicted of unlawful possession of materials depicting sexual performance by a child, each count carries a maximum penalty of up to five years in prison.

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