Stephan Sterns facing dozens of new sex crimes charges, but not murder

Posted at 11:57 AM, March 12, 2024

KISSIMMEE, Fla. (Court TV) — Stephan Sterns, the last known person to see Madeline Soto, is now facing a slew of new charges related to disturbing images and videos found on his phone.

side by side photos of Madeline Soto and Stephan Sterns

Stephan Sterns is accused of sexually abusing Madeline Soto, who was found dead days after her reported disappearance. (Kissimmee Police Department/Osceola County Sheriff’s Office)

Sterns, identified in court documents as Soto’s stepfather, was previously charged with sexual battery of a minor after investigators said they found evidence of him sexually abusing the child.

On Tuesday, the Kissimmee Police Department announced that as part of their continued investigation into Sterns, they filed an additional 60 charges against him, including sexual battery on a child under 12, lewd and lascivious molestation and unlawful possession of materials depicting sexual performance by a child.

We appreciate the efforts of our partners in the State Attorney’s Office in assisting with seeking justice for Madeline,” Kissimmee Police Chief Betty Holland said. “With this being a complex case with many facets, our work is not done, and we are continuing our investigation into the timeline leading up to Madeline’s death.”

Soto was last seen alive on Feb. 26; her body was found on March 1 in a wooded area. When detectives began investigating the case, Sterns consented to have his phone searched but told officers that he “accidentally” performed a factory reset on the device. Despite that, deputies said they found a trove of images and videos dating back years showing Soto being sexually abused.

No charges have been filed in Soto’s death, and police have not offered any further information about how she was killed.