Madeline Soto death: Florida teen said she would rather ‘live in the woods’ - Hindustan Times
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Madeline Soto death: Florida teen told friends she would rather ‘live in the woods’ before body was found

BySumanti Sen
Mar 04, 2024 10:31 AM IST

Madeline Soto, 13, disappeared on February 26 after her mother’s boyfriend dropped her off at Peace United Methodist Church on Town Loop Boulevard

Deceased Florida teen Madeline Soto told her friends she would rather “live in the woods” than at home before being found dead. On Friday, March 1, police announced that her body was found by Osceola County deputies in the wooded area along Hickory Tree Road.

Deceased Florida teen Madeline Soto told her friends she would rather “live in the woods” than at home before being found dead (Orange County Sheriff’s Office)
Deceased Florida teen Madeline Soto told her friends she would rather “live in the woods” than at home before being found dead (Orange County Sheriff’s Office)

Soto, 13, disappeared on February 26 after her mother’s boyfriend dropped her off at Peace United Methodist Church on Town Loop Boulevard. The location was a few blocks away from Hunter's Creek Middle School, which the child used to attend.

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“At about 4:30 p.m. today, off of Hickory Tree Road, Osceola County Sheriff’s Office search teams located the body of Madeline Soto in a wooded area. Madeline’s family has been notified,” the sheriff’s office said at the time.

It added, “We have no additional information to release at this time. Kissimmee PD is the lead agency in this homicide investigation. That work continues.”

After the discovery of her body, her mother Jenn’s boyfriend, 37-year-old Stephan Sterns, was arrested on unrelated charges of assault and the possession of child abuse material on his phone. He is being considered the "prime suspect" in Soto’s death. He was the last person to have seen her alive.

Evidence on Madeline Soto’s phone

Authorities found evidence on Soto’s phone that suggests she told her friends she wished to run away to go "live in the woods,” according to The Mirror. Jenn, however, said she believed her daughter would never do that.

Authorities believe Sterns murdered her in the morning, carried her body in a car and dumped it, according to NBC News. Orange County Sheriff John Minasaid during a press conference that authorities "have evidence that shows Stephan Sterns returning to the complex, and Madeline was visible in that vehicle." "We believe she was already dead at that time,” he added, but did not reveal what time the footage was captured.

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