Madeline Soto: Stephan Sterns waives first appearance day after teen's body found in Osceola County

The body of 13-year-old Madeline Soto was found in a grassy area in Osceola County, Florida five days after she was reported missing, officials said. Her mom's boyfriend, Stephen Sterns, is considered a "prime suspect" in her disappearance. He has been charged with dozens of charges related to sexual abuse. Click here for the latest updates on the investigation.

Original story:

Stephan Sterns was a no-show for his first appearance in Osceola County court on Saturday. His lawyer didn't want the judge reading out the charges.

At the first appearance, Sterns faced charges including sexual battery and possession of material depicting sexual performance by a child. Sterns had voluntarily handed his phone to investigators, who managed to recover photos and videos that they call "disturbing."

Investigators said he was also the prime suspect in Maddie Soto's disappearance. Search teams finally recovered Maddie’s body on Friday evening after an exhaustive search through the woods in Osceola County. The judge said Sterns would stay behind bars.

The Orange County Sheriff’s Office has turned over the case to Kissimmee Police. Sheriff John Mina said they had proof Sterns tried to cover his tracks after Maddie’s death. "We have video evidence that shows Stephan Sterns discarding items in a dumpster in the apartment complex in Kissimmee at 7:35 on Monday, February 26."

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Detectives later recovered Madeline's backpack and school-issued laptop from that dumpster. 

"At 8:19, we have evidence that shows Stephan Sterns returning to the complex, and Madeline was visible in that vehicle," he said, "we believe she was already dead at that time."

Kissimmee police said they weren’t releasing any further updates on the case. 

Former Orlando Police Chief Orlando Rolon said Sterns may have thought he could fool investigators. 

"This is a perfect example of someone who probably thought, 'Eh, I can get away with this,' and fortunately everything is now pointing to the fact that he had now been caught for the murder of this child."