PA Man Charged With Murder of Amish Teen Who Disappeared on Her Way Home From Church
Lancaster County District Attorney's Office
A Pennsylvania man accused of kidnapping an Amish teenager who disappeared six months ago after attending a Sunday service was charged with murder, authorities said Monday.
Justo Smoker, 34, was charged with criminal murder in connection with the June 21 disappearance, Lancaster County prosecutors said. Investigators say Stoltzfoos was last seen around 12:30 p.m. on a farm on Stumptown Road in the heart of Pennsylvania's bucolic Amish country.
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Though Stoltzfoos was not found, prosecutors claim Smoker killed the teenager after kidnapping her while she was talking home. He was charged in July with criminal kidnapping and wrongful imprisonment related to the disappearance of Stoltzfoos and has been in Lancaster County Prison since then.
"Given the circumstances surrounding Linda's disappearance - particularly the fact that she was forcibly abducted by a stranger - we always feared she would suffer a tragic fate," Lancaster County district attorney Heather Adams said Monday. "After carefully examining all of the facts revealed by the investigation as a whole, we are now in a position to - legally - indict Smoker with murder."
Authorities say the combination of the length of the investigation and the discovery of an 18-year-old's bra and stockings in July that were found "several inches" underground near the point where she was allegedly taken justified the additional fee.
According to prosecutors, on the day Stoltzfoos went missing, law enforcement received "three separate reports" of a person matching Smoker's description "to Amish women near the kidnapping site. Everyone believed the vehicle and the Drivers are suspicious and prompted some of the women to take evasive measures. Location data indicate that Smoker's cell phone was nearby at the time the incident was reported. "
Amish teenager missing after church kidnapping: DA
East Lampeter Township Police said they were first alerted around 2:00 a.m. on June 22nd that Stoltzfoos was missing after the teenager, who was wearing a light brown dress, white apron and white cape, said Attending a visit not having returned to their Beechdale Road was morning service just down the street.
It wasn't until hours later that someone noticed that Stoltzfoos was missing - her parents said they thought she went to a youth group and her friends there believed she never showed up because she was sick at home, authorities said.
"Nothing was found, no report or evidence to suggest Linda planned to leave her home and community," said Adams. "And since June 21st, there has been no sign of Linda or trace of any activity or routine Linda was involved in."
One of Stoltzfoos' friends told police, according to LancasterOnline, that the teenager had left church after the two washed dishes together after a three-hour mass that ended around noon. While they were washing dishes, Stoltzfoos told her friend that she planned to go home and change clothes before going to her youth group meeting. After the couple finished cleaning, the friend informed the police that Stoltzfoos had gone home barefoot with her shoes in hand.
"Linda was dependent on her community and family, with whom she had a positive and fulfilling relationship," prosecutors said in a press release on Monday. "Linda's failure to communicate in any way with a family member or anyone in her community, and the complete cessation of all routine activities are also evidence that she has passed away."
On the 19-minute walk from Stumptown Road Farm to Stoltzfoos' home, police said a red Kia Rio approached the teenager around 12:42 p.m.
Surveillance footage shows Stoltzfoos walking south on Beechdale Road when a person believed to be a smoker approached her, police said. The footage then shows the person coming from the direction of the Kia and walking towards the teenager. Seconds later, Stoltzfoos leaves the frame with the person and the red car drives away.
Police also said that two hours after the teen was kidnapped, according to cell phone records, Smoker was in a rural location in Ronks - about three miles away - where they believe the teen was taken.
Missing Amish teen went to church on Sunday - and never came home
"Within hours of these stalking incidents and Linda's abduction, Smoker bought alcohol and several pairs of disposable cleaning gloves," prosecutors said. "Also, Smoker bought shoe laces and shoelaces the morning of the kidnapping."
Testimony and cell phone recordings show that Smoker drove the teenager to the east side of Lancaster County, a dense wooded area that stretches for 1,000 acres. In the area, investigators said they found "Linda's bra and stockings" buried several inches below the ground.
“Smoker returned to the site several times in the days that followed, as evidenced by evidence from cell phones. DNA attributable to Smoker was found on one of these buried stockings, ”prosecutors claim. "Smoker then returned home and washed and cleaned his red Kia sedan thoroughly."
After a run through a car wash, Smoker allegedly threw away several items, including the recently purchased gloves and several shoe and shoelaces he allegedly wore on June 21. He also threw away car mats that were never discovered.
The investigation into Stoltzfoos' disappearance is ongoing, Adams said on Monday, adding that law enforcement officials are determined to locate her body in an effort to "shut down her family."
"Investigators and prosecutors must follow the facts, evidence, and laws to reach conclusions," said Adams. "A careful examination of each of these factors leads us to the inevitable conclusion that Linda is deceased and forms the basis of the charges filed."
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