On Thursday, Kissimmee Police Chief Betty Holland briefed the community during a news conference on the tragic disappearance and subsequent death of 13-year-old Madeline Soto, nearly a month after the grim discovery.

At the heart of the investigation is Stephan Sterns, the boyfriend of Soto’s mother, who continues to be the primary suspect in the case. Despite still not being charged with the murder, Sterns is in the Osceola County Jail under 60 separate counts, including sexual battery, molestation, and various charges related to child exploitation material, after he turned his phone over to law enforcement during the search for Madeline. Chief Holland said the offenses appear to be isolated to the home, with no current evidence suggesting additional victims.

Holland said they are working with the State Attorney’s Office as they work to build a case against Sterns and are constructing the timeline leading up to Soto’s death. The KPD Chief shared that death investigations are complex and that they are working hard to not jeopardize the case’s integrity disclosing information prematurely.

“Madeline’s story has touched the hearts of many. Rest assured our department is diligently working on the investigation, and while we appreciate the public’s interest, we must prioritize the integrity of the investigation,” Chief Betty Holland said.

Since his arrest on February 28, Sterns has exercised his right to legal counsel, choosing not to cooperate with investigators. However, Madeline’s mother Jennifer, has been actively speaking with authorities. Chief Holland made it clear that all individuals close to Madeline remain subjects of suspicion until conclusive evidence directs otherwise.

“During an investigation, such as this one, we gather additional information from individuals close to the deceased. Each person interviewed in treated as involved until proven otherwise. This is a standard protocol to ensure that all the facts are uncovered,” Chief Holland said during the news conference.

The exact cause of Madeline Soto’s death is yet to be determined, with the police working in close coordination with the Medical Examiner’s Office.

Chief Holland said that the Kissimmee Police Department will continue to keep the public informed of any developments in the case, and took the opportunity to urge parents to engage in open conversation with their children and to utilize available resources, such as school resource officers, to report and prevent any form of abuse within the home.