Man Pleads Guilty to Kidnapping, Killing Young Amish Woman

LANCASTER, Pa.—A man who led authorities to the remains of a young Amish woman in Pennsylvania pleaded guilty Friday to kidnapping and killing her.

Justo Smoker, 35, pleaded guilty in Lancaster County to third-degree murder, kidnapping and other offenses in the death of 18-year-old Linda Stoltzfoos, who was last seen walking home from church in the Bird-in-Hand area on June 21, 2020.

Smoker was sentenced to 35.5 to 71 years in prison. He faces an additional sentence of more than 17 years for violating parole from a previous series of burglaries and robberies.

“This effectively is a life sentence for Smoker,” District Attorney Heather Adams said at a news conference after the hearing.

Authorities said they believe Smoker killed Stoltzfoos within a few hours of kidnapping her, buried her in one location, then moved her body to another grave, on railroad property behind a business where he worked. A coroner said she was strangled and stabbed.

search for Linda Stoltzfoos
Red Rose K-9 search and rescue team search for Linda Stoltzfoos, who went missing when returning from a church service in Upper Leacock Township, Pa., on June 22, 2020. (Andy Blackburn/LNP/LancasterOnline via AP)

Smoker led authorities to her remains in April as a condition of his plea agreement, Adams said.

LNP newspaper reported that Smoker apologized to Stoltzfoos’ family in court, saying he had “robbed the family of time and memories.” President Judge David Ashworth called Smoker a “predator of the worst kind.”

Smoker was on parole from string of armed robberies he committed in 2006. He was released from prison in February 2019, 16 months before Stoltzfoos was killed.

July 24, 2021 7:25 am

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