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July 23, 2021

Amish teen's killer gets lengthy prison sentence in plea deal

Justo Smoker abducted and killed 18-year-old Linda Stoltzfoos, burying her body in Lancaster County last summer

Courts Homicides
Stoltzfoos Smoker Sentenced Source/Pennsylvania State Police

Linda Stoltzfoos disappeared from her Amish community in Lancaster County on June, 21, 2020. Authorities say her remains were found in Ronks on April 21, 2021. Justo Smoker, 35, of Paradise, will spend decades in prison after pleading guilty to abducting, strangling and burying Stoltzfoos in a hidden location.

The man who admitted to kidnapping and killing an Amish teenager in June 2020 was sentenced to decades in prison Friday after accepting a plea deal that removed the death penalty from consideration.

Justo Smoker, 35, pleaded guilty to third-degree murder after authorities determined he abducted Linda Stoltzfoos before strangling her and burying her remains in Lancaster County. The teen had been missing for 10 months before Smoker agreed to show investigators where he had hidden her body.

Smoker was sentenced to 35.5 to 71 years in prison. He'll face an additional sentence of more than 17 years for violating parole from a previous string of burglaries and robberies, according to the Associated Press.

Stoltzfoos was from the Bird-in-Hand section of East Lampeter Township, where several women reported being stalked by Smoker in his vehicle the day before Stoltzfoos went missing on June 21, 2020.

A few weeks after Stoltzfoos disappeared, police charged Smoker with felony kidnapping and misdemeanor false imprisonment. A criminal homicide charge was added last December. 

Smoker pleaded down to third-degree murder, kidnapping and related offenses as part of the deal with prosecutors. He was required to show investigators where he buried the teen's body in April.

Authorities say Smoker killed Stoltzfoos within hours of the abduction and buried her in a location where her stockings and bra were later found. The body was then moved to another grave on railroad property behind a business where he worked, near Route 41 in eastern Lancaster County.

Justo SmokerSource/East Lampeter Township Police

Justo Smoker

A coroner determined Stoltzfoos had knife wounds on her neck and died of asphyxia due to strangulation.

District Attorney Heather Adams said Smoker will effectively serve a life sentence for his crimes.

In court on Friday, an attorney for Smoker said he had been drinking heavily before the abduction and there was "no logical explanation" for his decision to kill Stoltzfoos, according to PennLive. Smoker denied sexually assaulting the teen.

In his first public comments about the case, Smoker expressed remorse for his actions.

"I can't undo anything that was done," Smoker said. "Even as I say these words, I don't feel like it does any justice for the pain I caused."

Stoltzfoos was the oldest of eight children in her family. An attorney representing the Stoltzfoos family said they hope to be able to forgive Smoker in accordance with the teachings of the Bible.