Madeline Soto case: State to seek death penalty against Stephan Sterns

OSCEOLA COUNTY, Fla. — The Ninth Judicial Circuit State Attorney’s Office announced Monday that it will seek the death penalty against Stephan Sterns.


Investigators said Sterns killed 13-year-old Madeline Soto -- his girlfriend’s daughter -- in late February.

Soto’s mother reported her missing Feb. 26, and her body was found in a rural, wooded area near St. Cloud on March 1.

Read: Madeline Soto: Bodycam videos show Stephan Sterns’ 1st interactions with deputies

“During the investigation into Soto’s disappearance, law enforcement found several disturbing pictures and videos on Sterns’ phone,” the State Attorney’s Office said in a news release. “He was arrested on 60 charges, including capital sexual battery, lewd or lascivious molestation and unlawful possession of materials depicting sexual performance by a child.”

A grand jury in April indicted Sterns on a first-degree murder charge in Soto’s death.

The State Attorney’s Office said its decision to seek the death penalty in this case is based on several factors, including the following:

Read: Stephan Sterns charged with 1st-degree murder in Madeline Soto’s death

• The capital felony being committed while the defendant was engaged in the commission of -- or an attempt to commit -- aggravated child abuse

• The victim being particularly vulnerable because the defendant stood in a position of familial or custodial authority over the victim

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Photos: Madeline Soto

Jason Kelly

Jason Kelly, WFTV.com

Jason Kelly joined WFTV Channel 9 in 2014. He serves as the station's Digital Executive Producer.

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