BIRD-IN-HAND, Pa. (WHTM) — A Lancaster County community is holding out hope that a missing Amish girl will be found safe.
Wednesday evening in Bird-in-Hand behind a farmhouse, the Amish community and their neighbors gathered in a field to pray for the safe return of Linda Stoltzfoos.
Stoltzfoos has been missing now for three and a half weeks; officials believe she was kidnapped June 21 on her way home from church along Stumptown Road.
“Our hearts were heavy for her and her family, and this never happens in our community,” said Doris Gilgore, who attended the vigil with her sister Wanda Good.
Heavy hearts were in no short supply in that sprawling field along Ronks Road, filled with hundreds of people.
ABC27 stayed back at the organizer’s request, and to respect the beliefs of the Amish attendees. But what couldn’t be held back for Gilgore, was the sadness she’s felt since Stoltzfoos went missing.
“It just touches our hearts,” Gilgore said. “She feels like part of our family because we think about her every day. I wake up at night or early morning, and she’s the first thing on my mind.”
Dozens of cars, horse and buggies, and people on foot came to the field-side prayer. The vigil was held not far from where officials say Justo Smoker, 34, abducted Stoltzfoos on Father’s Day — he was arrested last week.
She rarely walked through the fields, officials said in their affidavit of probable cause, adding that several separate witnesses told police they saw the Amish teen in the front seat of Smoker’s car around the time she went missing. They reported being alarmed at the sight of the girl, who was wearing a black head covering, which is something that particular Amish community reportedly does not do.
“We grew up around the Amish and they’re just peaceful people,” said Good, who feels Stoltzfoos’ disappearance just hit too close to home. “We felt coming [to the vigil] would just give us some peace. We’re just devastated by what has happened.”
“I wanna know where she is, that she’s not hurting,” Gilgore said.
abc27 was also informed that organizers actually invited the suspect’s family to Wednesday’s vigil; it’s unclear if the family showed up or not, as our cameras were not permitted to be near the event.
If you have any information about Stoltzfoos’ disappearance, you’re asked to contact East Lampeter Township police at 717-291-4676.