Former chief judge explains next step in Madeline Soto case as evidence builds against prime suspect

, Fla. — It’s been several days since Stephan Sterns was transferred to Osceola County Jail over the weekend. Sterns is in jail for charges stemming from child sexual battery.


Sterns was named the prime suspect in 13-year-old Madeline Soto’s disappearance and the last person to see her.

Since his arrest, Sterns has yet to speak to police about his involvement with the disappearance of Soto.

“If the state decides to seek the ultimate sanction of this case of death, you want to make sure it has enough time for the defense to look at it,” said Belvin Perry, former chief judge.

Read: Osceola County Sheriff Lopez apologizes after social media post shows possible body of Madeline Soto

Perry said the case is very fresh and fluid, and Kissimmee Police are working to build a case in the death of Soto after her body was discovered in a wooded area Friday.

“You will have more and more evidence. But preliminarily, they have a very good strong circumstantial case, and it will get better based upon the forensics,” said Perry.

As the case begins to unfold, Perry said more evidence from videos, clothing, and tips to police will convey what exactly happened to Soto.

Read: Stephan Sterns waives public appearance again, homicide charges not yet filed for Madeline Soto

“There is evidence (that) one, that he was the last person with her,” said Perry. “Two, he said he dropped her off at the school, and there is evidence that she was seen. That he dumped some of her personal items in a dumpster so that evidence of those few things would supply probable cause to believe that he had committed murder.”

Perry, who presided over the Casey Anthony case in 2011, said he saw similarities between this case and Anthony’s.

“Casey saying that the babysitter had her, and you have this person saying he dropped her off at school,” said Perry.

He also noted that both victims knew their prime suspects, both victims were children, and the prime suspect’s stories to police leading up to the discovery of bodies.

“He’s what I call the suto relative that was close to the child, that was in a familiar place with the child,” said Perry.

Perry said this case could play out for some time. He said law enforcement could let Sterns’ child sexual battery case play out, which would give them enough time to gather all the needed evidence to continue building their case.

“It’s really putting together a jigsaw puzzle piece by piece. And the police will build their case,” said Perry.

Perry said A trial could be two years away from indictment and that it would be hard for Sterns to post get or post bail.

“The state can file a motion for pre-trial detention or object for bail being sentenced. After all, he is a suspect in a homicide with strong evidence. Also, there is a great incentive for him if he is released, he’s facing murder in the first degree with the ultimate penalty being death. I doubt very seriously if any judge looking at the total factual situation protecting the community, a great risk of flight would grant this guy bail,” said Perry.

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