DiscoverCrime Stories with Nancy GraceMADDIE, 13, SEAT-BUCKLED DEAD INTO CAR OF MOMMY'S LOVER
MADDIE, 13, SEAT-BUCKLED DEAD INTO CAR OF MOMMY'S LOVER

MADDIE, 13, SEAT-BUCKLED DEAD INTO CAR OF MOMMY'S LOVER

Update: 2024-06-181
Share

Description

The day Madeline Soto vanished, her mother, Jennifer, writes in a sworn statement that she saw her daughter getting ready for school that morning. 


In a later interview, Jennifer Soto instead says she heard someone in the kitchen. She assumes it's Madeline, but that isn't the only change in the mother's story. Jennifer finally tells investigators she last saw her 13-year-old daughter the night before, when she sent Madeline to another bedroom with Stephan Sterns. 


According to Mom, this is a common arrangement when she needs to get a good night's sleep. 


Early in the investigation, Stephan Sterns was a person of interest. The day Madeline Soto is reported missing, investigators allegedly found 1,700 sexually explicit images on Sterns's cell phone. Investigators have also said they found images and video on Sterns’ phone showing he molested her for years. 


Initially, Stephan Sterns tells investigators he drops the girl off near Hunter's Creek Middle School. However, around that same time, investigators say a license plate reader detected Sterns's car miles away from the school. Using data from license plate readers and surveillance video, investigators track Sterns's car as it travels east from Kissimmee toward St. Cloud and Old Hickory Tree Road, where Madeline Soto's body is found lying face down near bamboo trees covered in debris. 


Investigators obtain surveillance video from the morning Madeline Soto is reported missing a trash compactor where a tread from Stephan Sterns's car is found as well as items belonging to Madeline Soto, like her black backpack. Sterns is caught on video throwing these objects in the trash compactor.  Minutes later, Sterns is caught on surveillance video at 7:36 a.m. driving away from the Kissimmee, Florida neighborhood with a female in the front passenger seat.  


Investigators believe the female seen at 7:36 a.m. in the surveillance video in the front passenger seat of Stephan Sterns's vehicle is Madeline Soto's dead body propped up and buckled into the seat to appear as a living person, but closer inspection of the video shows her head leaning toward her shoulder with her mouth open.  Sterns is caught on surveillance video again at 8:19 am when he is seen entering the front security gate of the neighborhood with a female, in the same position as the surveillance video.


Stephan Sterns's car is seen on surveillance footage again, this time turning into the parking garage of Holiday Inn Club Vacations in Orlando. He drives to the top level of the parking garage and gets out of his car around 9:42 a.m. A man matching Sterns's description is seen allegedly opening the trunk, walking around to the passenger seat, opening the door, and carrying what appears to be a "limp female body" to the trunk of the vehicle. At 9:44 a.m. the vehicle is seen on surveillance video leaving the parking garage and driving away.


The Florida State Attorney's office release more than 900 pages of information showing how investigators, using surveillance videos and license plate readers tracked Stephan Sterns leaving an apartment complex in Kissimmee on the morning of February 26, and driving to an area of St. Cloud where Madeline Soto's body is found four days later. It remains unclear as to how Madeline Soto died.


The Orange-Osceola State Attorney’s Office announced that it filed 60 counts against Sterns, including:



  • Eight counts of Sexual Battery on a Child Under 12

  • Five counts of Sexual Battery with a Child, 12-18

  • Seven counts of Lewd or Lascivious Molestation

  • 40 counts of Unlawful Possession of Materials Depicting Sexual Performance by a Child, 10 or More


Stephan Sterns will face the death penalty if convicted of the murder of Madeline Soto. 


JOINING NANCY GRACE TODAY: 



  • Terasina Niles - Madeline's Aunt   

  • Jarrett Ferentino – Pennsylvania Attorney/Homicide Prosecutor,; Facebook & Instagram: Jarrett Ferentino; Host: “True Crime Boss” Podcast

  • Dr. Jorey Krawczyn – Police Psychologist, Adjunct Faculty with Saint Leo University; Research Consultant with Blue Wall Institute, Author: Operation S.O.S. – Practical Recommendations to Help “Stop Officer Suicide” 

  • Joe Scott Morgan – Professor of Forensics: Jacksonville State University, Author, “Blood Beneath My Feet,” and Host: “Body Bags with Joseph Scott Morgan;” X: @JoScottForensic

  • Shannon Butler - Investigative Reporter at WFTV-9 Florida

See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

Comments 
loading
00:00
00:00
x

0.5x

0.8x

1.0x

1.25x

1.5x

2.0x

3.0x

Sleep Timer

Off

End of Episode

5 Minutes

10 Minutes

15 Minutes

30 Minutes

45 Minutes

60 Minutes

120 Minutes

MADDIE, 13, SEAT-BUCKLED DEAD INTO CAR OF MOMMY'S LOVER

MADDIE, 13, SEAT-BUCKLED DEAD INTO CAR OF MOMMY'S LOVER

iHeartPodcasts and CrimeOnline