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The body of 13-year-old Madeline Soto was found Friday in a wooded area of Florida’s Osceola County days after she went missing, the Orange County Sheriff’s Office confirmed to Fox News Digital. 

Her body was located by search teams from the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office at around 4:30 p.m. local time.

No other information is being released at this time, the department said. 

Earlier Friday, authorities said in a press conference they were “confident” that Madeline was dead less than a week after she went missing.

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Detectives with the Kissimmee Police Department told Madeline’s mother the “very devastating news” Thursday night that “although we have not found Madeline, we are confident she is dead,” Sheriff John Mina said. 

Mina said the case has transitioned into a homicide investigation following her disappearance on Monday when she didn’t arrive at school. 

He said Madeline never made it to school on Feb. 26, “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.” 

Sterns was the boyfriend of Madeline’s mother, Jenn Soto, and he is now the main suspect in the case. Sterns was arrested on Wednesday for unrelated capital sexual battery charges, Kissimmee Police Chief Betty Holland said. 

He is being held at the Osceola County jail. 

“Right now our top priority is recovering Madeline,” Holland said. “We are still appealing to our community for their help in this case.”

Mina said investigators have video evidence of Sterns throwing items in a dumpster in an apartment complex in Kissimmee around 7:30 a.m. that morning before Madeline’s laptop and backpack were found by detectives in the dumpster. 

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Stephan Sterns mugshot

He said they have evidence of Sterns returning to the apartment complex after 8 a.m. that morning “and Madeline was visible in that vehicle. We believe that she was already dead at that time.” 

She noted that there is still “a lot of information” that they cannot yet release.

Madeline’s mother is not a suspect in the case. 

Holland said Sterns was seen driving a silver 2010 Lincoln MKZ with Florida tag IYLL82 on Monday near Kissimmee and may have had a flat tire.

Mina said that while the investigation started in Orange County, the Kissimmee Police Department is taking over as the lead agency. 

Orange County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Maria Vazquez said in a statement Friday that she is “heartbroken” over the news. 

“I am heartbroken to hear from the Orange County Sheriff’s Office of the tragic death of our precious student, Madeline Soto,” she said, according to FOX 5. “My thoughts and prayers go out to Maddie’s family and her school community. To lose a child so suddenly and tragically is extremely difficult especially for family and friends. Counselors continue to be available for any student or staff member dealing with the news. I ask that you keep the entire Hunter’s Creek Middle School community in your prayers as they grieve the loss of one of their own.”

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