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

KISSIMMEE, Fla. — Stephan Sterns was charged with first-degree murder in Madeline Soto’s death Wednesday afternoon. Watch continuing coverage on Channel 9 Eyewitness News, and read live updates below:


6:40 p.m. update

State Attorney Andrew Bain said Wednesday’s indictment was based on Sterns’ calculated moves to hide Soto’s body in rural Osceola County.

“The Kissimmee Police Department and my office have been working closely to go over every piece of evidence that we could gather in this case,” he said Wednesday during a news conference.

Records indicate Soto was killed between Feb. 25 and Feb. 27. Her body was found March 1 in a wooded area near St. Cloud.

Photos: Madeline Soto

“The evidence shows an individual that was entrusted to keep Madeline safe made calculated moves to dispose of Madeline’s belongings and place her body in a wooded area before she was ever reported missing,” Kissimmee police Chief Betty Holland said during that news conference.

Bain said he will decide at a later date whether to pursue the death penalty in this case.

Sterns is scheduled to be arraigned on the murder charge at 1:30 p.m. Monday.

Earlier this month, Channel 9′s Shannon Butler sat down with Tyler Wallace, Soto’s biological father in his first interview since his daughter’s death.

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

Butler spoke with Wallace on Wednesday, and he told her that his attorney notified him of Sterns’ murder charge earlier in the day.

He said he is still trying to process the news.

But earlier this month, he told Channel 9 that he was trying to be patient as he waited for more answers about his daughter’s death.

“I have a list a mile long of questions, but I’m satisfied with the answers I’ve been given from official sources,” he said. “I’m just trying to give this investigation time to do this the right way. I don’t want to rush anybody. I want evidence to be analyzed. I want to know the truth. I want to know all of the truth, and I want to know the correct truth -- and that will take time.”

Watch continuing coverage on Channel 9 Eyewitness News.

Read: Madeline Soto: A timeline of her disappearance & death

4:35 p.m. update

Ninth Judicial Circuit State Attorney Andrew Bain and Kissimmee police Chief Betty Holland announced Wednesday afternoon that Stephan Sterns has been charged with first-degree murder in Madeline Soto’s death.

Bain said during the joint news conference outside the Osceola County Courthouse that prosecutors presented the case to a grand jury, and the grand jury returned an indictment Wednesday.

The indictment came fewer than eight weeks after Soto’s death.

Bain said Sterns will have a face a judge on this new charge in the next day or two.

He said he has not yet decided if he will pursue the death penalty in this case.

“I want to thank the Kissimmee Police Department for their tireless efforts,” he said.

Bain said he hopes that the charge helps bring some closure to Soto’s family.

Holland said that she was pleased that her agency obtained enough evidence for the grand jury to indict Sterns.

She thanked the State Attorney’s Office, the Medical Examiner’s Office and the other law enforcement agencies who have assisted in the investigation.

“Your expertise and dedication were integral in uncovering the truth,” Holland said.

Prosecutors said Sterns is the only person being charged Soto’s death at this time. But they said their investigation continues.

Watch live team coverage on Channel 9 Eyewitness News.

4:05 p.m. update

Kissimmee police Chief Betty Holland and Ninth Judicial Circuit State Attorney Andrew Bain will be speaking at Wednesday’s news conference. You can watch it live as soon as it begins on Channel 9 Eyewitness News at 4 or by clicking here.

3:35 p.m. update

The Kissimmee Police Department is preparing to hold a live news conference outside of the Osceola County Courthouse to discuss the first-degree murder charge filed against Sterns.

Channel 9 has a crew at the scene that will bring you the news conference live on Channel 9 Eyewitness News at 4.

3 p.m. update

Stephan Sterns is being charged with first-degree murder, according to the Osceola County Clerk of Courts.

Court documents show that Sterns was indicted by a grand jury and was charged on Wednesday.

The Kissimmee Police Department is set to hold a news conference at 4 p.m. to discuss the charges

Earlier story

The prime suspect in the disappearance of 13-year-old Madeline Soto was set to be in court on Wednesday, but did not appear.

However, Stephan Sterns once again did not show up, and his defense pleaded for more time.

Investigators consider him the prime suspect in the death of Madeline Soto.

Watch: ‘I miss her so much’: Madeline Soto’s biological father speaks out about death, disappearance

The teenager disappeared in late February and was found dead days later in a wooded area in Saint Cloud.

Sterns is expected in court on charges related to child sex abuse.

There are still no charges for the death of Madeline as law enforcement continues its investigation.

Just days after Sterns spoke exclusively to Channel 9, he was arrested and eventually charged with 60 counts of sexual battery on a child under 12 and lewd or lascivious molestation.

Read: ‘We already called 3 times’: 911 calls shed light on how the search for Madeline Soto began

Sterns, the boyfriend of Madeline Soto’s mother, was the last person seen with the 13-year-old.

His next court date is now set for July 10.

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Read: Madeline Soto case: Medical Examiner’s Office says it can’t release autopsy report

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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