Six months after Linda Stoltzfoos’ bra and stockings were discovered buried, authorities charged the man they say abducted the 18-year-old. Her body has never been found.
A Pennsylvania man accused of kidnapping an Amish teenager who vanished after attending a Sunday church service six months ago has been charged in her murder, authorities said Monday.
Justo Smoker, 34, has been charged with criminal homicide in connection with the June 21 disappearance, the Lancaster County District Attorney’s Office said. Investigators say Stoltzfoos was last seen around 12:30 p.m. at a farm on Stumptown Road in the heart of Pennsylvania’s bucolic Amish country.
While Stoltzfoos has not been found, prosecutors allege Smoker killed the teenager after abducting her as she was walking home. He was charged in July with felony kidnapping and misdemeanor false imprisonment in connection with Stoltzfoos’ disappearance and has been at Lancaster County Prison since.
“Given the circumstances of Linda’s disappearance—specifically, that she was forcefully abducted by a stranger—we always feared she suffered a tragic fate,” Lancaster County District Attorney Heather Adams said Monday. “After careful consideration of all of the facts uncovered by the investigation as a whole, we are now in a position—legally—to charge Smoker with murder.”
Authorities say the combination of the length of the investigation and the July discovery of a bra and stockings belonging to the 18-year-old that were found buried “several inches” underground near where they say she was taken justified the additional charge.
Further, prosecutors say law enforcement also received “three separate reports” the day Stoltzfoos went missing about a person matching Smoker’s description “following Amish females near the abduction site. All believed the vehicle and driver to be suspicious and caused some of the females to take evasive action. Location data indicated Smoker’s cellphone was in the area at the time of those reported incidents.”
East Lampeter Township police said they were first alerted that Stoltzfoos was missing at around 2 a.m. on June 22, after the teenager—who was wearing a tan dress, white apron, and white cape—failed to return to her Beechdale Road home after attending a church service the prior morning just down the road.
It was not until hours later that anyone realized Stoltzfoos was missing—her parents said they thought she had gone to a youth group and her friends there believed she never showed up because she was sick at home, authorities said.
“There was nothing found, no report or evidence, that indicates Linda was planning to leave her home and community,” Adams said. “And since June 21, there have been no signs of Linda or traces of activity or routines involving Linda.”
One of Stoltzfoos’ friends, according to LancasterOnline, told police the teenager had left the church after the two had washed dishes together after a three-hour Mass that ended at around noon. While they were washing dishes, Stoltzfoos told her friend she planned to go home and change her clothes before she went to their youth group meeting. Once the pair were done cleaning, the friend told police that Stoltzfoos left to walk home barefoot, with her shoes in her hand.
“Linda was dependent on her community and family, with whom she had a positive and fulfilling relationship,” prosecutors said in a Monday press release. “Linda’s failure to communicate in any way with any family member or anyone in her community, and the total cessation of all her routine activities also is evidence that she is deceased.”
Along that 19-minute walk from the Stumptown Road farm to Stoltzfoos’ home, police say a red Kia Rio approached the teenager at around 12:42 p.m.
Surveillance footage shows Stoltzfoos walking south on Beechdale Road when a person believed to be Smoker approached her, police said. The footage then shows the individual, who is coming from the direction of the Kia, walk toward the teenager. Seconds later, Stoltzfoos goes out of frame with the individual and the red car drives away.
Police also said that two hours after the teenager was abducted, cellphone records show Smoker was at a rural location in Ronks—about three miles away—where they believe the teenager was taken.
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SOURCE: The Daily Beast – Pilar Melendez