April 21, 2021
Lancaster County prosecutors and the FBI have recovered human remains that appear to be a breakthrough in the case of Linda Stoltzfoos, the 18-year-old Amish woman who disappeared last June.
On the 10-month anniversary of the teen's disappearance, authorities announced Wednesday that the remains were found in a rural part of eastern Lancaster County.
The scene will be forensically processed before the remains are sent to the Lancaster County coroner for official identification and a determination of the cause and manner of death.
Stoltzfoos was last seen in the Bird-in-Hand section of East Lampeter Township after attending a church youth group meeting at a farm on Stumptown Road. There was no indication that she had been unhappy or had been planning to leave her community, police said. She didn't leave a note and never mentioned going on a trip. Her father reported her missing to local authorities.
A few weeks after Stoltzfoos went missing, as search efforts continued, police charged 35-year-old Justo Smoker, of Paradise, with felony kidnapping and misdemeanor false imprisonment. A criminal homicide charge was added in December.
Smoker became a person of interest in the case after police received information from witnesses about a red car that was spotted in the area on the afternoon Stoltzfoos disappeared. Investigators said they later confirmed Smoker's presence using cell phone location data.
Witnesses described seeing Stoltzfoos in the passenger seat of a car, providing information that was consistent with Smoker and his vehicle, authorities said.
The day before Stoltzfoos went missing, other Amish women in the community told investigators they were stalked by a red vehicle matching Smoker's red Kia sedan. Smoker also was seen cleaning the car following Stoltzfoos' disappearance, prosecutors said.
As investigators searched for Stoltzfoos in a rural area of Ronks, where they believed she might have been taken after she was abducted, they found a pair of the teen's stockings and a bra buried in the ground. Smoker's DNA profile was found on these garments, prosecutors said.
Smoker’s vehicle also was seen parked at the location where the clothing was found on June 23, 2020.
Video evidence and cell phone location data also allegedly placed Smoker in remote areas within the Welsh Mountains of eastern Lancaster County in the hours after Stoltzfoos disappeared.
Authorities did not disclose a specific location where the human remains were found.
In March, Smoker was ordered to stand trial in Stoltzfoos' death in light of evidence presented during his preliminary hearing. He remains held at Lancaster County Prison without bail.
The Lancaster County District Attorney’s Office is working closely with the members of the recovery team and will provide more updates to the public Thursday.