Madeline Soto: Story Jennifer Soto gave law enforcement doesn’t line up with what investigators know

ORLANDO, Fla. — Channel 9 learned Tuesday that the story Jennifer Soto -- the mother of 13-year-old Madeline Soto -- gave to law enforcement does not line up with what investigators know.


Channel 9 spoke one-on-one with Jennifer Soto on Feb. 27, a day after her daughter had been reported missing.

Soto told Channel 9 that her boyfriend, Stephan Sterns -- who is now the prime suspect in Madeline Soto’s death -- had taken the girl to school.

WATCH: Jennifer Soto, Stephan Sterns speak to Channel 9 about Madeline Soto’s disappearance

She said that the last conversation she had with her daughter happened the night before her disappearance.

But a report Channel 9 obtained Tuesday shows that Soto told deputies that she saw her daughter the morning of the girl’s disappearance.

Read: Madeline Soto: Bain asks FDLE to investigate how photo of body was posted to Lopez’s social media

No one has been charged in Madeline Soto’s death. But investigators are looking into who knew what, when. That means they are reviewing initial interviews of the couple and ones conducted later on.

Sources told Channel 9′s Shannon Butler that the statements about the timeline of Madeline Soto’s disappearance have not always been consistent.

Jennifer Soto told Channel 9 last week that the last conversation she had with her daughter was about her 13th birthday party the night before her disappearance.

“I told her ‘good night,’ and yeah, that was it,” she said.

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

But according to documents, Sunday night was not the last time Jennifer Soto saw her daughter.

Newly obtained documents show that the girl’s mother told deputies Feb. 26 that she saw her daughter getting dressed for school at 8 a.m. Monday, and Sterns then took her to school.

But since that initial report was taken, Channel 9 learned from Orange County Sheriff John Mina that Madeline Soto was likely dead earlier than that.

“Our detectives have determined that Madeline was never dropped off on the morning of Feb. 26 near her school,” Mina said during a news conference. “Instead, we believe she was already dead at the time, and that Stephan Sterns moved her body in the early morning hours of that day.”

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

Channel 9 has reviewed statements from Sterns and Jennifer Soto to try to piece together what happened in the final hours of Madeline Soto’s life.

“We dropped her off at school, close to school,” Jennifer Soto told Channel 9. “She wanted to walk the rest of the way.”

But in that same interview, she said this:

“I wasn’t the one who took her to school in the morning. That was my partner.”

Detectives believe that Madeline Soto was likely dead early Monday, because surveillance video recorded at the Kissimmee apartment complex where the family lived shows Sterns dumping her belongings in a dumpster at 7:35 a.m.

Read: Law enforcement gathers evidence against prime suspect in Madeline Soto case

At 8:19 a.m., video shows the girl in Sterns’ vehicle, and she was believed to already be dead in that video, Mina said.

The Kissimmee Police Department has taken over the investigation into the girl’s death since Mina’s news conference.

Sources tell Channel 9 that Jennifer Soto has been interviewed multiple times by detectives from two agencies and that they are looking closely at all the statements she has made.

Read: ‘She was always smiling’: Hunter’s Creek Middle School comes together in honor of Maddie Soto

But Kissimmee police will not officially comment.

An initial report also shows that Sterns told investigators that after Madeline Soto got out of the car, she stopped to look in her backpack before he drove away. That backpack was discovered in a dumpster after her death.

Sterns said he went home for about an hour after going to a vape store and then ran errands and was home until 2:30 that day, the report said.

Detectives said a tip showed him changing a flat tire not far from where the girl’s body was found that afternoon.

Read: Madeline Soto’s body found in rural Osceola County

Before Sterns’ arrest, he told Channel 9 that he dropped off Madeline Soto at school the morning of her disappearance.

“She was asleep for most of the way,” he said. “I told her ‘have a good day at school’ when she got out -- ‘I love her.’ She said, ‘Thanks, I love you, too.’ And that was it.”

Law enforcement officers believe Sterns never drove Madeline Soto to school and that she was already dead that morning.

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Jason Kelly

Jason Kelly, WFTV.com

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

Shannon Butler

Shannon Butler, WFTV.com

Shannon joined the Eyewitness News team in 2013.