Rachel Bunyan, Daily Mail, April 22, 2021
Police have found human remains during a search for a missing Amish woman who disappeared in Pennsylvania last summer.
The remains were recovered from a rural area in the eastern part of Lancaster County as part of a search related to the disappearance of 18-year-old Linda Stoltzfoos, the district attorney’s office said Wednesday.
Stoltzfoos was last seen walking home from a church service in the Bird-in-Hand area of Lancasteron on June 21 last year. She never returned home.
Last month, a county judge ruled that prosecutors had presented enough evidence for a homicide trial against Justo Smoker, 35, of Paradise, in the disappearance of Stoltzfoos.
Prosecutors have said friends and family report that Stoltzfoos was happy with her life and had never expressed any desire to leave. In fact, they say, she had made plans to join others in a church youth group that day.
Smoker was initially charged with felony kidnapping and misdemeanor false imprisonment.
But in December, he was charged with homicide, with prosecutors alleging that the passing of time, along with the complete cessation of all routine activities led to the inevitable conclusion that Linda was deceased and that Smoker caused her death.
Stoltzfoos was reported missing on the evening of Father’s Day by her father after she failed to return home from a youth group she had been set to attend. Investigators say Stoltzfoos never made it to the social gathering that night.
Surveillance footage observed by authorities captured Stoltzfoos walking alone on Beechdale Road, a route she typically took home after church. A red Kia Rio that matched Smoker’s vehicle registration number was also seen in the footage.
In a rural location in Ronks where they believe the victim might have been taken and where the vehicle was seen parked June 23, authorities found items of Stoltzfoos’ clothing buried in a wooded area, prosecutors said.
‘Smoker became a person of interest in the kidnapping after police received information about a red/orange vehicle seen in the Gap area on the afternoon of the abduction,’ the East Lampeter Township Police Department said in a press release in July last year.
‘Multiple witnesses in the area reported seeing an Amish female in the passenger seat of a vehicle driven by a male. Witness descriptions of the driver and vehicle are consistent with Smoker and his vehicle.’
A DNA profile ‘attributable to Smoker’ was found on one of her buried stockings, prosecutors have said.
Smoker has an extensive criminal history stretching back to 2005 and has spent the majority of his adult life behind bars.
He had been a former high school wrestling all-star who had a 3.0 grade point average and earned a place on the Lancaster-Lebanon wrestling all-star team in 2003 before turning to a life of crime.
The 34-year-old was sentenced to serve 12-and-a-half years to 30 years in prison following a string of armed robberies in 2006.
Smoker ended up serving nearly the minimum on that sentence and was released on Feb. 28, 2019.