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New Information About Evidence Revealed in Murder Case Involving Man Who Claims to Work For Disney

A young girl with long brown hair smiling at the camera. In the background, black-and-white images of people are overlaid with a red stamp of the word "EVIDENCE" in large letters.
Credit: Disney Dining

New information about evidence and about law enforcement’s homicide investigation has come to light in the Florida murder case against a man who claimed to work for Disney at the time the crime was committed.

Related: Suspect in Madeline Soto Murder Says He Works For Disney; Where’s the Proof?

madeline soto

Credit: Soto Family

WARNING: The following article mentions topics that may be distressing for certain audiences. Viewer discretion is advised. 

The Disappearance of Madeline Soto

Thirteen-year-old Madeline Soto was reported missing by her mother on the afternoon of Monday, February 26, after Stephan Sterns said he took Madeline to school that morning. Sterns is the boyfriend of Soto’s mother.

Instead of taking her all the way to Hunter’s Creek Middle School, where she was a student, Sterns said he dropped her off near the school, in front of a nearby church. Though it was not uncommon for Sterns to take Soto to school in the mornings, the alleged events that transpired on February 26 were very different from other days, as detectives quickly discovered that Soto never showed up for classes that day.

hunter's creek

Credit: Facebook/Hunter’s Creek Middle School

Immediately, an investigation into her disappearance was launched as Orange County Sheriff’s officers noted that Stephan Sterns was the last person to see the young girl alive.

The Focus of the Investigation Shifts

Just days later, in an update on Friday afternoon, March 1, Orange County Sheriff John Mina told journalists during a press conference that the department’s focus had shifted to finding the young girl’s body earlier in the week, as investigators claimed to have evidence that suggested the young girl was already dead on Monday morning, long before she would be reported missing by her mother, Jennifer Soto.

The only person of interest from the beginning of the investigation was Sterns, 37, who claimed to have been working as a cast member at the Walt Disney World Resort at the time. Disney refuted Sterns’ claims, and there’s still no hard evidence to substantiate Sterns’ claims about employment with Disney World.

At approximately 4:30 p.m. on Friday, March 1, the body of the young girl was discovered in a wooded area along Old Hickory Tree Road in Osceola County, approximately 32 miles southeast of the Walt Disney World Resort.

map of disney world to hickory tree road

Credit: Google Maps

Sixty Charges Filed Against Sterns, But Not For the Murder

Then, in mid-March, prosecutors with the Florida State Attorney’s Office for the Ninth Judicial Circuit filed 60 new charges against Stephan Sterns, the prime suspect in the disappearance and murder of 13-year-old Madeline Soto, and the boyfriend of the young girl’s mother, but at the time, no one–including Sterns–had been charged with the young girl’s murder.

The charges included 40 counts of possession of child sex abuse material, found by detectives on Sterns’s smartphone, as well as seven counts of molestation and 13 counts of sexual battery of a minor. Eight of those 13 counts are related to the alleged abuse of a child under the age of 12.

madeline soto stephan sterns suspect

Credit: Orange County Sheriff’s Office

“The State Attorney’s Office has been working closely with [the Kissimmee Police Department] and received evidence that gave us cause to file formal charges against Sterns,” said State Attorney Andrew Bain in a statement. “We appreciate the thoroughness and detailed attention of their investigation and will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to build a strong case against the defendant.”

Finally, Murder Charges Are Filed

First-degree murder charges were finally brought against Sterns in late April after a grand jury indicted him in connection with the murder of Madeline Soto. A press conference was held to share this information.

press conference in florida

Credit: Facebook/Kissimmee Police Department

Since that time, there have been no significant public updates related to the case.

On Wednesday afternoon, however, attorneys for Sterns asked Florida state prosecutors to turn over evidence collected by law enforcement officials during their investigation thus far.

New Details Emerge About Evidence Found by Detectives

Court documents filed in Osceola County court earlier in May give details about potential evidence found by detectives working on the homicide investigation into Soto’s death. As requested by Sterns’ attorneys, the evidence has been turned over as part of the process of discovery in the case.

A five-page document gives clues about evidence prosecutors have collected up to this point in the case. Among those items are search warrants, forensic photos, and police reports. The document also includes an “ME report,” which likely stands for “Medical Examiner’s report,” as an autopsy was carried out in the case after the discovery of Soto’s body along Old Hickory Tree Road in Kissimmee in early March.

missing teen madeline soto

Credit: Family of Madeline Soto

In April, however, the county medical examiner said that his office would not release information about Soto’s cause of death, as the information is protected because she was a minor at the time of her death.

The state also released three applications for “mobile tracking devices” to Sterns’ attorneys. The applications are also for the “authorization for installation” of those tracking devices on three separate vehicles: a 2010 Lincoln MKZ, a 2012 Honda Civic, and a 2022 Nissan.

Evidence also includes a search warrant for the 2010 Lincoln MKZ, which matches the image and the description of the vehicle driven by Sterns on the day of Madeline’s disappearance.

silver vehicle in madeline soto disapperance case

Credit: Orange County Sheriff’s Office

Further, detectives also obtained search warrants for social media accounts on Discord, Instagram, and Google, each with usernames that appear to suggest that they were associated with Madeline Soto.

The document serves to bring new light to the investigation that continues into the young teen’s death. Though Sterns has been charged with the murder of the young girl, investigators have not yet stated a motive in the case.

Court Appearances Scheduled

Sterns’ sex crimes trial is scheduled to begin in August 2024, and he was ordered to appear in court on July 10 for a pretrial meeting. The murder trial is scheduled to begin on July 16, 2024.

madeline soto

Credit: Instagram/Jenn Soto/Orange County Sheriff’s Office/Canva

Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with those who knew and loved Madeline Soto during this extremely difficult time.

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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