Madeline Soto update: Stephan Sterns to face death penalty in Florida teen's murder, prosecutors say

The State Attorney's Office intends to seek the death penalty against Stephan Sterns, the man accused of killing his girlfriend's daughter, 13-year-old Madeline "Maddie" Soto, according to court records – should he be convicted.

The decision was made based on several factors including the state's intention to prove that:

  • A capital felony was committed while Sterns was engaged in the commission of, or an attempt to commit aggravated child abuse
  • Madeline's vulnerability because Sterns stood in a position of familial or custodial authority over her
  • The capital felony was considered "heinous, atrocious or cruel"
  • Sterns is currently facing more than 60 counts of sexual battery, molestation, and other sex-related charges in a separate case, which will serve as priors if he is convicted

 You can read the court document in its entirety below:

Sterns is the prime suspect in the Osceola County teen's death. 

MORE: Madeline Soto update: New video shows Jenn Soto, Stephan Sterns after Florida girl reported missing

Madeline was first reported missing by her mother, Jenn Soto, on Feb. 26 after she did not attend class at her Orange County middle school after allegedly being dropped off by Sterns.

During an investigation into Madeline's disappearance, investigators found multiple "disturbing" pictures and videos on Sterns’ phone. 

Booking photo of Stephan Sterns from the Osceola County Jail. 

Deputies conducted a search in the area where Sterns claimed to have last seen Madeline, using a canine unit that was unable to detect her scent. Her body was found days later on March 1 in a rural area in Osceola County.

Investigators believe Madeline was likely killed before the school day began.

In April, a grand jury indicted Sterns on a charge of first-degree murder in her homicide. 

Officials have not shared details on how she died or the circumstances surrounding her death. 

Sterns has not spoken to detectives. He has not provided a motive in the girl's death, officials said.

RELATED: Madeline Soto update: Here's what evidence the state has in Florida teen's death investigation

A judge has scheduled a pretrial conference for July 10. The jury trial is currently scheduled for July 16.