The Lancaster County District Attorney’s Office announces a significant development in the investigation of Linda Stoltzfoos’ abduction and attached prosecution.
On Monday, East Lampeter Township police and Pennsylvania State Police, after consultation with the District Attorney’s Office, filed an additional charge – of criminal homicide – against Justo Smoker, who was previously charged with kidnapping the 18-year-old Stoltzfoos on June 21.
In consideration of the evidence collected over the past six months, our office has approved the filing of a charge alleging Smoker killed Linda after kidnapping her while she walked home from church on Beechdale Road in Upper Leacock Township.
Linda has not been found, and efforts remain ongoing to locate her body and provide closure to her family.
Smoker is expected to be arraigned today on the homicide charge. He is presumed innocent and has been at Lancaster County Prison since July 11, when he was charged with felony kidnapping.
“Given the circumstances of Linda’s disappearance; specifically, that she was forcefully abducted by a stranger, we always feared she suffered a tragic fate,” Lancaster County District Attorney Heather Adams said Monday. “After careful consideration of all of the facts uncovered by the investigation as a whole, we are now in a position – legally – to charge Smoker with murder.”
The homicide charge is the result of a collaborative investigation between East Lampeter Township police, Pennsylvania State Police, FBI, and the District Attorney’s Office. The homicide charge was approved by First Assistant District Attorney Todd E. Brown, who is prosecuting the case.
“Investigators and prosecutors must follow the facts, the evidence and the law to reach conclusions,” District Attorney Adams said. “A careful review of each of these factors leads us to the inevitable conclusion that Linda is deceased and provides the basis for the filed charges.”
The investigation into the disappearance of Linda, which remains active, has yielded evidence that legally supports the tragic conclusion that Linda was forcibly taken and then killed.
The following facts (outlined in more detail in an affidavit of probable cause) provide the basis for the charges alleging that Linda is deceased and Smoker is responsible for her kidnapping and murder:
Local, state and federal law enforcement officials have utilized numerous resources and tactics in efforts to locate Linda, including posting photos and information about Linda on fliers, billboards, social media and news reports. Investigators have also used national databases for missing persons. None of those efforts yielded signs or evidence that Linda is alive.
The length of Linda’s absence – now six months – and the fact that she was forcibly abducted by a stranger support that same conclusion, as does the discovery of her intimate clothing buried in the ground.
Linda was dependent on her community and family with whom she had a positive and fulfilling relationship. Linda’s failure to communicate in any way with any family member or anyone in her community, and the total cessation of all her routine activities also is evidence that she is deceased.
“There was nothing found, no report or evidence, that indicates Linda was planning to leave her home and community,” District Attorney Adams said. “And since June 21, there have been no signs of Linda or traces of activity or routines involving Linda.”
Smoker’s conduct on and around the time of Linda’s kidnapping, along with physical evidence, supports the allegations that he kidnapped and murdered her.
Law enforcement later received three separate reports that on the evening of June 20 a person matching the description of Smoker – in a vehicle consistent with Smoker’s red Kia – was following Amish females near the abduction site. All believed the vehicle and driver to be suspicious and caused some of the females to take evasive action. Location data indicated Smoker’s cellphone was in the area at the time of those reported incidents.
Within hours prior to those stalking incidents and Linda’s abduction, Smoker purchased alcohol and multiple pairs of disposable cleaning gloves. Additionally, Smoker bought shoe and boot laces on the morning of the kidnapping.
Regarding the kidnapping, evidence including witness statements, indicates Smoker placed Linda in his vehicle, then drove to the eastern side of Lancaster County, including remote areas within the Welsh Mountains, which spans more than 1,000 acres of dense woods. Cellphone evidence shows Smoker then traveled to 3104 Harvest Drive, where Linda’s bra and stockings were later found buried. Smoker returned to the site several times in subsequent days, cellphone evidence shows.
DNA attributable to Smoker was found on one of those buried stockings.
Smoker then returned home and thoroughly washed and cleaned his red Kia sedan.
Evidence also demonstrates that Smoker discarded items, including: the recently purchased gloves and multiple shoe and boot laces, shoes he wore on June 21, and car floor mats, which commonly contain trace evidence; those items were never found in police searches.
The Lancaster County District Attorney’s Office thanks the investigative agencies for their professionalism, diligence, and continued commitment to this case.
MEDIA CONTACT: Brett A. Hambright, 717-295-2041; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @BrettHambright