Madeline Soto crime scene photo 'accidentally' shared on Osceola County Sheriff's social media: officials

The Florida State Attorney's Office has asked the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to open an investigation after an apparent photo of the area where Madeline Soto's body was found last week was allegedly posted on social media.

In a screenshot of the Instagram post, which was shared with FOX 35 Orlando, one of the photos appears to show a body in a grassy, wooded area. FOX 35 has viewed the photo and made the decision not to show it or post it.

Madeline Soto was reported missing on Monday, Feb. 26, after she never made it to school. Five days later, her body was found in a rural wooded area in St. Cloud, not far from Kissimmee, Florida, officials said.

The Osceola County Sheriff's Office confirmed to FOX 35 in a statement earlier this week that an investigative photo was "accidentally" included in the photo collage, which was intended to showcase Sheriff Lopez's attendance at a community event for seniors.

"A post was made on social media about a community event for seniors. 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," the sheriff's office said.

Sheriff Lopez has not personally commented on the matter.

State Attorney Andrew Bain's office told FOX 35 earlier this week that Bain was "deeply disturbed" that such a photo was "carelessly made public," according to a statement. However, he did not believe the alleged incident would impact the investigation.


"While I do not believe these photos will have any evidentiary impact on the case as of now, they were released in poor taste. Our main focus is making sure we get justice for 13-year-old Madeline Soto," he said.

On Tuesday, the State Attorney's Office said in a new statement that it had requested that the FDLE investigate the matter. FOX 35 has reached out to FDLE for comment.

In a statement late Tuesday night, the Osceola County Sheriff's Office said it also contacted the FDLE "to offer our cooperation and transparency into the inadvertent release of an investigative photograph."

"We understand the community’s concerns and we welcome an independent review of what transpired," the statement read.

Former Osceola County Sheriff Russ Gibson, who is re-running against Sheriff Lopez in the upcoming election, wrote a scathing post against Lopez on Facebook. "This is 100% unacceptable and 100% shameful," he wrote. 

Stephan Sterns, the boyfriend of Madeline Soto's mom, Jenn, was arrested amid the search for Maddie under suspicion of sexual battery and possession of child sex abuse material after detectives conducted a search of his phone.

He is considered to be the "prime suspect" in Soto's disappearance. However, he has not been arrested or charged with anything related to her disappearance or death.