Eyes on a Killer: New BodyCam Footage Released in Murder of Young Girl Near Disney World

A collage of images showing three different people: on the left, a bearded man in a cap standing with arms crossed; in the center, a woman in glasses and a dark hoodie making a gesture; on the right, a close-up of a smiling young girl with long blonde hair.
Credit: Disney Dining

New bodycam footage has been released in the investigation into the murder of a 13-year-old girl in Orange County, Florida, in late February. The man charged with her murder claims to have been working as a cast member at Disney World, and he can be seen in the video alongside the young girl’s mother. Do you see something strange about his behavior?

A close-up image of a person with long light brown hair smiling at the camera. The background is slightly blurred but appears to show an indoor setting with some yellow lighting.

Credit: Family of Madeline Soto

Please note: This story mentions topics that may be unsuitable for sensitive audience members. Viewer discretion is advised.

A 13-Year-Old Florida Girl Celebrates Her Birthday in Late February

Madeline Soto turned 13 years old on February 22 of this year. She then celebrated her birthday with her family on Sunday, February 25, and according to her mother, Jenn Soto, the young girl thoroughly enjoyed her special day.

missing teen madeline soto

Credit: Family of Madeline Soto

“She was so happy,” her mother said during an interview. “She showed us all her gifts. She’s just a happy girl, and she showed it on Sunday. When she went to bed, she was so happy.” But on Monday, February 26, the young girl, who had been described as “so happy” the day before, disappeared.

A Disappearance That Captured the Nation’s Attention

Soto was reported missing on February 26, 2024. According to initial reports, she was last seen by her mother’s boyfriend, Stephan Michael Sterns, who reportedly dropped her off near Hunter’s Creek Middle School that morning. Soto’s mother, Jennifer, had seen her daughter getting ready for school earlier that day.

hunter's creek

Credit: Facebook/Hunter’s Creek Middle School, where Madeline Soto was a student

Sterns later stated in a police interview that Madeline changed her mind about eating breakfast and decided to just go on to school. Surveillance footage and subsequent investigations revealed inconsistencies in Sterns’ account, showing him discarding the girl’s belongings, including her school-issued laptop and her backpack, in a dumpster located at an apartment complex instead of dropping her off at school.

The search for Madeline Soto intensified quickly, and over the next few days, Orange County Sheriff’s Office deputies and local volunteers conducted extensive searches in the surrounding areas.

madeline soto

Credit: Soto Family

Then, during a press conference on March 1, 2024, authorities announced that they were confident Madeline was no longer alive. Hours later, the body of the young girl was discovered in a wooded area in Osceola County about a half-hour from the Walt Disney World Resort along Old Hickory Tree Road in St. Cloud, Florida, confirming the worst fears of detectives and Soto’s loved ones.

Her remains were found after a detailed investigation led to the area, based on the inconsistencies in Sterns’ statements and additional evidence gathered by investigators. The Kissimmee Police Department then took over the Madeline Soto case, continuing the investigation, as Kissimmee Police had been working with Orange County on the investigation up to that point.

Stephan Sterns was subsequently arrested and charged with 60 counts of sexual crimes, though at the time, he was not charged with the murder of Soto. But the investigation into Madeline’s death continued, and it was later revealed that there were significant gaps in Sterns’ account of the timeline from the night before Madeline’s disappearance to the morning of the day she was reported missing.

A man with a gray and black beard, wearing a dark shirt, is being escorted by a person in uniform. The background is a plain wall with a door. The person in uniform has a sheriff's star-shaped badge on their sleeve.

Credit: Orange County Sheriff’s Office

Sterns’ behavior, including a suspicious factory reset of his phone, further spurred on investigators’ suspicions. Sterns was finally charged with the murder of Madeline Soto on April 24, 2024, nearly two months after her disappearance. The investigation is ongoing as authorities work to piece together the full sequence of events and bring justice for the young girl and her family.

New BodyCam Footage Released Gives More Insight Into the Beginning of the Case

On Monday, June 3, deputy bodycam footage was released by the Orange County Sheriff’s Office. The footage was recorded during the very first interaction between the Orange County Sheriff’s deputies, Madeline’s mother, and her mother’s boyfriend, Stephan Sterns. Conversations heard in that footage give more insight into the happenings that took place as the case began to unfold in late February.

In the footage, Madeline Soto’s mother, Jennifer Soto, can be seen talking with law enforcement inside the tax office where Jennifer works about her missing daughter on the evening of her disappearance. Her boyfriend, Stephan Sterns, can be seen standing to her right. Sterns is the man now charged with Madeline’s murder.

A woman wearing a black hoodie stands pointing in front of a seated bearded man in a blue shirt with his arms crossed. Two women are seen in the background; one is standing using a computer and the other is seated. Text on the image indicates it is from a body camera.

Credit: Orange County Sheriff’s Office

In the exchange between Soto and Sterns and the police officer wearing the body camera, Madeline’s mother is visibly worried. Sterns, however, has his arms crossed for much of the exchange and makes little eye contact with detectives. He can be heard describing what the young girl was wearing when she was last seen: “Green hoodie, white Crocs, blue or black pants,” he says, naming items he says Madeline was wearing.

As part of the exchange, Sterns tells detectives that he dropped 13-year-old Madeline off at a church near her middle school, saying she was embarrassed by the appearance of his vehicle–a story detectives would later learn was completely fabricated. Sterns even tells officers what Madeline was supposedly doing as she walked away from his vehicle toward the school–more of his fabricated story.

A group of people stand in a room, some looking worried. A woman on the right clasps her hands together. A man in the middle drinks from a bottle. A person with curly hair looks at their phone. A sign and a clock are visible on the wall behind them.

Credit: Orange County Sheriff’s Office

“She was walking in that direction,” Sterns can be heard telling officers in the video. “She was looking through her backpack. I thought she was looking for headphones. She went in that direction. Looked the same as any other morning.”

That evening, detectives visited the location of the church parking lot where Sterns claimed to have dropped off Madeline that morning, but K-9 units were unable to locate her scent in the area, as seen in another video released by the Orange County Sheriff’s Office.

A dimly lit street scene at night with a bright streetlight creating a glare on the image's right side. Text at the top reads, "COURTESY: ORANGE COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE". A timestamp on the image displays "2024-02-27 07:14".

Credit: Orange County Sheriff’s Office

The deputy bodycam footage can be seen by clicking here.

As of the time of this publication, many questions about Madeline Soto’s disappearance and murder remain unanswered, and so far, no motive has been established in the case. As this continues to be a developing story, more information will be shared as it becomes available.

About Becky Burkett

Becky's from the Lone Star State and has been writing since she was 10 and encountered her first Disney Park when she was 11. It was love at first Main Street Electrical Parade. Joy is blank lined journals, 0.7 mm pens, and all things Walt, Woody and Buzz, PIXAR, Imagineering, Sleeping Beauty (make it blue!), Disney Parks history and EPCOT. At Disney World, you'll find her croonin' with the birdies at the Enchanted Tiki Room or hangin' with Woody and the gang at Toy Story Land. If you can dream, you really can do it!

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