LANCASTER, Pa. (AP) — Authorities have announced the recovery of human remains during a search related to the disappearance of a young Amish woman in Pennsylvania last summer.
The Lancaster County district attorney’s office announced Wednesday that the remains were found in a rural area in the eastern part of the county as part of a search related to the June 2020 disappearance of 18-year-old Linda Stoltzfoos. The FBI, state police and East Lampeter Township police were at the scene.
The county coroner’s office will make a formal identification and determine the cause and manner of death, prosecutors said.
Stoltzfoos was last seen walking home from church in the Bird-in-Hand area, and prosecutors noted that Wednesday marked exactly 10 months since she disappeared. Prosecutors have said friends and family report that Stoltzfoos was happy with her life and had never expressed any desire to leave. In fact, they say, she had made plans to join others in a church youth group that day.
Justo Smoker, 35, of Paradise was initially charged with felony kidnapping and misdemeanor false imprisonment. In December, he was charged with homicide, with prosecutors alleging that the passing of time, along with the complete cessation of all routine activities led to the inevitable conclusion that Linda was deceased and that Smoker caused her death.” In March, a county judge ruled that there was enough evidence for a homicide trial.
Authorities said surveillance video enhanced by FBI forensic technicians showed a red sedan, the same kind of car owned by the defendant, involved in the abduction.
In a rural location in Ronks where they believe the victim might have been taken and where the vehicle was seen parked June 23, authorities found items of Stoltzfoos’ clothing buried in a wooded area, prosecutors said. A DNA profile “attributable to Smoker” was found on one of her buried stockings, prosecutors have said.
Christopher Tallarico, the county’s chief public defender, argued in March there was no proof that Stoltzfoos had ever gotten into Smoker’s car, and he elicited testimony that her DNA wasn’t found on samples taken from the car. East Lampeter Township Detective Christopher Jones said DNA profiles recovered were insufficient to test.