One year later: Justice wanted in Linda Stoltzfoos murder, case headed to trial


CORRECTION: A previous version of this story stated that Stoltsfoos’ remains were found where Smoker used to live. The sentence has been corrected with the accurate information that it was where Smoker used to work.

LANCASTER COUNTY, Pa. (WHTM) — It’s been just over one year since Linda Stoltzfoos was reported missing in Lancaster County when she went to a Sunday church service and never returned home.

What happened?

In June 2020, East Lampeter Township Police reported Stoltzfoos was last seen on a farm in Stumptown Road, and from there local agencies and community members formed a search group to bring Linda home. The search proved difficult for months, as there was a lack of technology to track from due to Stoltzfoos being from the Amish community.

Days later, the FBI joined the case, bringing specialized resources to assist police with their missing person’s case. Investigators were using dogs, horses, and drones to find Stoltzfoos.

After about a month of searching and investigating, the Lancaster County District Attorney’s Office arrested and charged Justo Smoker of Paradise with felony kidnapping and misdemeanor false imprisonment.

Surveillance video obtained by East Lampeter Township Police and FBI forensics “depicts the abduction” of Stoltzfoos on Beechdale Road, which matches her route. Investigators also found clothing, believed to be hers, buried in a wooded area.

The video also shows a red sedan, the same kind owned by Smoker.

Six months later, Smoker was charged with murder. Even though she had not been found, new evidence in a criminal complaint said Smoker’s DNA was found on Stoltzfoos’ buried clothing.

The search continued until the end of April 2021, when human remains were found along Route 41, later confirmed by the Lancaster Co. Coroner to be Stoltzfoos. The remains were found near where Smoker used to work.

The investigation found she was strangled to death, along with suffocation and stab wounds contributing to her murder.

What’s next?

A trial is set to occur for Stoltzfoos’ murder, but when that’ll happen is to be announced. Smoker is currently imprisoned at Lancaster County Prison.

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