Amish Teenager In Pennsylvania Found Dead After Abduction Caught On Surveillance Video
“I robbed the family of time and memories,” the killer told Linda Stoltzfoos’ loved ones at his sentencing.
A teenager went missing one summer day in Pennsylvania and was later found strangled and stabbed to death, a crime that shocked the Amish community.
On June 21, 2020, Linda Stoltzfoos, 18, attended church and then began making her way to her Bird-in-Hand home so she could change her clothes for a youth group meeting she was planning to attend, People reported.
After she disappeared, witnesses recalled seeing the teenager riding in the passenger side seat of a red vehicle. Police were also able to obtain surveillance video that showed Stoltzfoos’ abduction, which occurred less than half a mile from her house, and a red Kia Rio with a distinct sticker located on the vehicle’s trunk.
Detectives were able to connect the Kia Rio with a suspect, Justo Smoker, then 35, and they charged him with felony kidnapping and misdemeanor false imprisonment.
The charges were upgraded in December 2020 to include murder.
In April 2021, Stoltzfoos’ remains were found in a grave near railroad tracks behind Smoker’s former place of employment in rural Lancaster County. An autopsy determined she had been strangled, suffocated and stabbed in the neck, the Associated Press reported.
The suspect was also accused of sexually assaulting the victim, an allegation he denied, according to WFTV.
The assistant Lancaster County district attorney said Smoker “approached Linda from behind and choked her with his arm under her neck, and then with shoelaces until she was no longer breathing.”
The prosecutor added: “He then stabbed Linda in the neck one time to ensure that she was dead.”
Investigators matched Smoker’s DNA with that recovered from the victim’s undergarments, which were found at a location where the defendant first buried the victim before he moved and reburied her, prosecutors said.
Smoker initially denied he had anything to do with the crime. However, in exchange for prosecutors taking the death penalty off the table, he accepted a plea deal and admitted guilt to third-degree murder, kidnapping, abuse of a corpse, tampering with evidence, and possession of an instrument of crime, WFTV reported.
A judge sentenced Smoker in July 2021 to serve 35.5 to 71 years behind bars.
During his sentencing hearing, Smoker apologized to his family as well as the victim’s loved ones.
“I thought I would know what to say, but what words can I say other than I am sorry: to Linda’s family, the community and my supporters,” Smoker said, Lancaster Online reported.
“I robbed the family of time and memories,” he continued, before addressing his father, brother and other relatives.
“I was raised better than this,” he said. “I am better than this ... I was loved better than this. I am sorry.”
Samuel Blank, who represented the Stoltzfoos family and the Amish community at the hearing, told Smoker that both “can and will forgive you.”