Madeline Soto was sexually abused by mom’s boyfriend for years, documents say

Madeline Soto was sexually abused by mom’s boyfriend for years, documents say

Last week, Sterns was detained facing allegations of sexual battery and holding illicit material of child abuse.

He is under suspicion for the disappearance of a 13-year-old girl, Madeline Soto, with the investigation still active.

No charges have been filed against Sterns regarding Soto’s case, as the Kissimmee police are meticulously probing the circumstances surrounding the young girl’s fate.

What You Need To Know

Authorities have identified 37-year-old Stephan Michael Sterns as the leading suspect in the case of 13-year-old Madeline Soto’s disappearance and demise.

Sterns, who was previously accused of sexually assaulting a minor, now faces additional charges from the Kissimmee Police Department for numerous alleged offenses against children.

He is presently detained at the Osceola County Jail without the possibility of bail.

As of now, Sterns has not faced charges related to the death of Soto.

Soto’s mother’s partner, Sterns, was identified by investigators as having a history of abuse against Soto since she was 12, detailed in an arrest affidavit that also revealed the abuse dates back further.

Sterns consented to a phone search by the authorities, claiming an accidental reset on the day Soto vanished. Nonetheless, law enforcement retrieved videos and photos from the device.

The Orange County Sheriff’s Office discovered “alarming images,” with metadata indicating some content dated back to August 2022, suggesting Soto was 11 at the time.

Kissimmee Police Department records indicate Soto suffered sexual battery, with Sterns implicated in the evidence.

The inquiry into the alleged offenses was spearheaded by the Kissimmee police, as the incidents occurred at the residence shared by Soto, her mother, and Sterns.

Currently, Sterns is confined in the Osceola County Jail on charges of sexual battery and possession of child abuse material, following his initial court appearance on Saturday.

A therapist emphasizes the importance of discussing abuse with children, regardless of perceived necessity.

Many parents and family members believe they are taking all necessary precautions to safeguard their children, which may lead them to overlook the need to discuss certain sensitive topics, explains Cherlette McCullough, a certified therapist specializing in marriage and family.

McCullough points out that there are telltale signs that a child may be experiencing distress.

For instance, signs of sexual abuse may include a child’s reluctance to spend time with a particular individual, an understanding of subjects beyond their age, or a general sense of distrust, she notes.

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Emotional abuse, on the other hand, may manifest as depression, poor self-worth, or neglect of personal cleanliness.

McCullough advises that if a child becomes reclusive or uncommunicative, it’s crucial to approach them with compassion rather than confrontation. Engaging in open dialogue about all matters, including abuse, should become a regular practice with teenagers.

For those who are aware or suspect that a child is being mistreated, McCullough recommends contacting the Florida Abuse Hotline at 1-800-962-2873 for support.

Madeline Soto updates

More about Madeline’s disappearance

On Monday, Feb. 26, Soto was declared missing, with initial reports suggesting Sterns had left her near Hunter’s Creek Middle School.

Contradicting these reports, Orange County Sheriff John Mina disclosed that no evidence supports that Soto was actually dropped off that day.

During a press briefing on Friday, Mina revealed footage capturing Sterns disposing of items in a dumpster at approximately 7:35 a.m. on the day Soto vanished.

Items belonging to Soto, including her backpack and a school-issued laptop, were subsequently discovered in the same dumpster within the Kissimmee housing complex.

Additionally, Mina reported that Sterns was observed coming back to the complex at about 8:19 a.m., with Soto in the vehicle, and it is suspected that she had already passed away by then.

According to KPD, the new charges include:

Stephan Michael Sterns, 37, faces multiple charges including:

  • Eight instances of sexual battery on a minor under 12 years old
  • Five instances of sexual battery on a minor between 12-18 years old
  • Seven instances of lewd and lascivious behavior
  • Forty instances of illegal possession of over ten images showing a child in sexual acts

Sterns is due for a court hearing at 8:30 a.m. on April 2.

Sterns, tasked with dropping off the teenager at school, is presumed to be the last person to have seen Soto alive before her disappearance on Feb. 26. Soto’s remains were later discovered in a forested region of Osceola County on March 1.

An arrest affidavit from Feb. 29 details an interview with Sterns, during which he admitted to a phone reset on the day of Soto’s disappearance. Despite the reset, authorities retrieved explicit images and videos from the phone, believed to have been recorded at the Kissimmee residence he shared with Soto and her mother.

The affidavit does not name the victim in Sterns’ case, only mentioning her birth date as Feb. 22, 2011. Sterns is accused of abusing her twice, once in August 2022 when she was 11, and again at age 12.

These allegations led to Sterns’ initial charges.

Further details on the new charges have not been disclosed.

KPD Chief Betty Holland expressed gratitude towards the collaborative agencies for their role in formulating the new charges against Sterns, emphasizing that the investigation into Soto’s death is still active.

Holland stated, “We value the assistance from our partners at the State Attorney’s Office in the pursuit of justice for Madeline. Given the complexity of this case, our investigative efforts continue as we delve into the events preceding Madeline’s death.”