The following article contains topics including murder and sexual abuse. Please take care while reading.

The tragic death of Madeline Soto continues to spark attention in the true crime world. At only 13 years old, authorities became concerned when the young girl disappeared on February 26

She had been missing for four days before law enforcement discovered her body. During the investigation for the Kissimmee, Florida teen, police soon honed in on Soto’s mother’s boyfriend, Stephan Sterns. He had allegedly brought her to school, but Sheriff John Mina told the Orlando Sentinel they believe that never occurred. 

“Instead, we believe she was already dead at the time and that Stephan Sterns moved her body in the early morning hours on that day. We have video evidence that shows Stephen Sterns discarding items in a dumpster in that apartment complex in Kissimmee at 7:35 a.m. on Monday, Feb. 26.”

According to Fox 35, Sterns became a prime suspect in the investigation. The 37-year-old had child pornography on his phone, which led to his arrest. The source establishes a timeline of the explicit photos and draws a connection to Soto. At the time of the article, the child in the photo had not been identified, but is believed to be Soto. This evidence pointed to the possibility that Sterns had killed his stepdaughter. The state is now seeking the death penalty for this harrowing crime.

Tensions are high because of the age of the victim, and ABC7 reports that the cause of death will not be revealed. This decision is the most tactful one, to be sure. There is no further need to sensationalize the heartbreaking death of a young girl. Court TV is seemingly the only outlet that has broached the topic. The publication alleges that Soto died by strangulation, but as of this writing, that is the only information that we have.

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