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April 23, 2021

Amish teen was strangled, stabbed before burial in Lancaster County, coroner says

Justo Smoker, 35, awaits trial on homicide charges after allegedly kidnapping Linda Stoltzfoos 10 months ago

Investigations Homicides
Linda Stoltzfoos Remains 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, has been charged with criminal homicide in Stoltzfoos' death.

Human remains found buried in eastern Lancaster County this week have been positively identified as 18-year-old Linda Stoltzfoos, the Amish woman who went missing last June after attending a church youth group meeting.

The Lancaster County coroner confirmed the finding Friday using dental records and determined that Stoltzfoos died of asphyxia due to strangulation. A knife wound also was found on the victim's neck.

The discovery concludes a 10-month search for the Stoltzfoos' remains, which were found wrapped in a tarp that was buried on railroad property, prosecutors said.

The burial location was near Route 41 behind the previous place of employment of Justo Smoker. The 35-year-old Paradise man was charged in December with kidnapping and killing Stoltzfoos.

Investigators believe Smoker killed Stoltzfoos in the hours after kidnapping her on June 21 and initially buried her remains behind a business in Ronks, where authorities found her bra and bonnet. Within several days of the homicide, Smoker moved the remains to the location where they were found on Wednesday, prosecutors said.

"Since charging this case we have maintained two goals: bringing Linda home to her family and securing a murder conviction against Smoker," Lancaster County District Attorney Heather Adams said. "While we charged the crime of homicide in December, I have no doubt that for Linda’s family, her death only became a reality upon the news of her body being recovered."

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. Witnesses told investigators they saw Stoltzfoos in a car with a man that matched Smoker's description.

Cell phone location records and DNA evidence also have linked Smoker to Stoltzfoos' kidnapping and death, according to prosecutors.

Smoker is awaiting trial and remains held at Lancaster County Prison.