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Mother's Boyfriend Suspected of Murdering 13-Year-Old Madeline Soto Allegedly Abused Her 2 Years Ago: Docs

Stephan Sterns, 37, was charged with sexual battery and possession of child sexual abuse material

<p>orange county/orange</p> Madeline Soto

orange county/orange

Madeline Soto

Madeline Soto, the 13-year-old Florida girl found dead five days after going missing, was sexually abused two years before vanishing, according to court documents cited in multiple reports.

Before her body was found, Stephan Sterns, 37, who is dating Madeline’s mother, was arrested and charged with sexual battery and possession of child sexual abuse material, the Orange County Sheriff’s Office says.

WESH, WFLA and FOX 35 report that, in an arrest affidavit, police allege that Sterns had abused Madeline in 2022, when she was 11 years old.

The reported affidavit also alleges that police found photos and videos of Sterns sexually abusing a child victim after searching his phone.

Related: Missing Fla. Girl Madeline Soto, 13, Found Dead, Police Suspect Mother’s Boyfriend Moved Her Body

PEOPLE wasn't able to immediately reach the public defender representing Sterns. Court records show he has not been arraigned on those charges.

<p>Orange County jail </p> Stephan Sterns

Orange County jail

Stephan Sterns

Sterns has not been charged in connection with Madeline’s death, but authorities consider him the prime suspect in her disappearance.

Madeline’s body was found in a wooded area in Osceola County on Friday after a five-day search, according to officials. She had just turned 13 on Feb. 22, according to the Orlando Sentinel

Related: A 13-Year-Old Fla. Girl Has Been Missing Since Monday — and Her Mother's Boyfriend Was Just Arrested

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It was believed that Madeline was last seen on her way to school, Orange County Sheriff John Mina previously said. Detectives allegedly determined that Madeline was never dropped off by Sterns.

"Instead, we believe she was already dead at the time and that Stephan Sterns moved her body in the early morning hours on that day,” Mina said. “We have video evidence that shows Stephen Sterns discarding items in a dumpster in that apartment complex in Kissimmee at 7:35 a.m. on Monday, Feb. 26.”

If you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual abuse, text "STRENGTH" to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 to be connected to a certified crisis counselor.

If you suspect child abuse, call the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-Child or 1-800-422-4453, or go to www.childhelp.org. All calls are toll-free and confidential. The hotline is available 24/7 in more than 170 languages.

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