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Florida Sheriff Apologizes For Posting Photo Of Dead Girl

The Osceola County, Fl., Sheriff's Office apologized after Sheriff Marcos Lopez received backlash online for posting a photo of a dead body on his personal Instagram page believed to be that of missing teen Madeline Soto, USA Today reports. “On March 2, 2024, a post was made on social media about a community event for seniors," the sheriff's office told the Orlando Sentinel. "In the post, an investigative photo was accidentally included. The photo was immediately removed. We deeply apologize for any confusion or disturbance this may have caused." It is illegal to release photos or videos of "the killing of a minor," under Florida law and anyone who "willfully and knowingly" does so would be accused of a third-degree felony. This includes releasing photos of a dead body, without the family's permission.

It was widely speculated that the photo showed the body of Madeline "Maddie" Soto, which was found Friday by Osceola County sheriff's search teams in a wooded area, southeast of Orlando. The teen had been missing for a few days Soto's mother's boyfriend, Stephen Sterns was arrested Wednesday and is considered to be a "prime suspect." Soto went missing on Feb. 26 and was last seen wearing a green sweatshirt, black shorts, and white crocs. The sheriff's office said she was "never dropped off near her school on the morning of February 26". The last person to see her was Stern, 37, according to the Orange County Sheriff's Office, which said that video evidence showed Stern "discarding items in a dumpster at the family’s Kissimmee apartment complex" at 7:35 a.m. on Feb. 26. Madeline's backpack was later found inside the dumpster by investigators. Sterns is jailed without bond. He faces two charges of sexual battery of a minor, including one count for capital sexual battery on a minor under 12, which has a maximum punishment of a death sentence.


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