Chief of Police: Detectives ‘working tirelessly’ in Madeline Soto case

Posted at 2:31 PM, March 21, 2024 and last updated 8:24 AM, March 21, 2024

KISSIMMEE, Fla. (Court TV) — On Thursday, authorities held a press conference in the Madeline Soto case and stressed the importance of the integrity of their investigation.

Kissimmee Police Chief Betty Holland didn’t offer any new details in the case against Stephan Sterns but said multiple people had been interviewed. When asked if Madeline’s mother, Jennifer Soto, is a suspect in the case, Chief Holland said everyone close to Madeline is “considered a suspect until proven otherwise.”

stephan sterns mugshot

FILE – Stephan Sterns (Kissimmee Police Department)

Chief Holland also said they’re still waiting on a medical examiner’s report to further the investigation, and detectives are working “tirelessly.”

37-year-old Sterns, identified as Madeline’s stepfather in court documents obtained by Court TV, was the last known person to see the 13-year-old alive. Madeline’s remains were found March 1 in a wooded area, four days after she was last seen.

Sterns was arrested Feb. 29 on charges of sexual battery and possession of child sexual abuse material. During the investigation into Madeline’s disappearance, authorities found “disturbing images” on Sterns’ phone that were described as criminal and sexual in nature involving a minor. Sterns consented to have his phone searched but told officers that he “accidentally” performed a factory reset on the device. Despite that, investigators located the material.

Nearly two weeks later, Sterns was hit with an additional 60 charges in connection to accusations he sexually abused Madeline, including sexual battery on a child under 12, lewd and lascivious molestation and unlawful possession of materials depicting sexual performance by a child. Metadata from the images and videos indicated they were recorded as early as Aug. 2022, when Madeline was 11 years old.