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4 new details we learned from Justo Smoker's preliminary hearing about missing Amish teen's disappearance

Justo Smoker

Justo Smoker, 34, of Paradise Township, was charged with kidnapping Linda Stoltzfoos, an 18-year-old Amish woman who was last seen on June 21. 

While most of Justo Smoker's two-and-a-half hour preliminary hearing on Wednesday was based off the criminal complaint filed against him on July 10, some new details about the investigation were revealed.

Smoker, a 34-year-old man from Paradise, is accused of kidnapping Linda Stoltzfoos, an 18-year-old Amish girl who was last seen walking home from church on June 21 in Bird-in-Hand. After his preliminary hearing on Wednesday, his charges were bound for county court.

East Lampeter Township police Detective Christopher Jones testified for nearly two hours about the criminal complaint against Smoker, telling First Assistant District Attorney Todd Brown and Smoker's public defenders exactly how police decided to charge Smoker with the felony and misdemeanor. 

Pennsylvania State Police Trooper Kory Wardrop testified how police found Stoltzfoos' bra and stockings buried about 6 to 8 inches underground behind a business on Harvest Road. 

Here are some points of contention and what happened during the defense's cross-examination. 


Did Linda leave on her own? 

One of the biggest questions surrounding Stoltzfoos' disappearance is whether she chose to leave on her own, and how investigators came to the conclusion Smoker kidnapped her. 

Jones said Stoltzfoos had told "numerous" people about her plans for that Sunday in the days prior. 

She had made a dessert and was planning to return home from church to change clothes, get the dessert and walk back to her youth group that usually runs from 2 to 11 p.m., Jones stated in the affidavit. 

Stoltzfoos had "no change in lifestyle or demeanor," leading up to the day of her disappearance, Jones testified. 

Investigators had checked her bank account for any unusual withdrawals in the days leading up to June 21 and after and hadn't seen any change, Jones said, even as recently as the morning of the hearing. 

There was also cash in her room, Jones said. 

Furthermore, Jones told prosecutors, Stoltzfoos didn't have any form of identification and wouldn't have been able to use any sort of mass transit. 

Christopher Tallarico, the county's chief public defender and Smoker's attorney, pointed out that Route 30 and Route 340 (Old Philadelphia Pike) are both close to where Linda was last seen.

Tallarico noted an ID isn't required to ride on any of the Red Rose Transit buses, which have routes that regularly stop on Route 30, according to Red Rose Transit's busfinder. 


Pinpointing Smoker's vehicle

Jones told the court that police used several surveillance cameras from around the area and witness statements to determine that the red Kia Rio belonged to Smoker. 

Numerous images from the video were used by the police to get a profile of the car, which police say Smoker was driving when he abducted her. 

After determining what the make and model of the car likely was, police ran a search through their database. 

A red Kia Rio registered to Smoker was the result of the search. 

Trooper Wardrop also told the court that the car also matched a description from a call for a suspicious vehicle behind a business on Harvest Drive on June 23. 

During cross-examination, Tallarico asked if police expanded the search beyond the police database, which would only include vehicles that had been entered following some type of police report. 

Jones said that the search was not expanded and said that all the vehicles in the photos from surveillance videos matched Smoker's. 

Smoker had sent a Facebook message to someone at 3:03 p.m. on June 21, saying that he was cleaning his car, Jones testified. 


The buried bra, stockings

State police found Stoltzfoos' bra and stockings buried behind a business on Harvest Drive, Trooper Wardrop testified.

An employee of the business called the police about a suspicious vehicle parked to the rear of the business on July 23, Wardrop said. The employee took photos of the vehicle, which police say was Smoker's. 

Wardrop said there were footprints going into the wooded area and noticed that about 40 yards in, there seemed to be a "disturbed area" in the middle of a lot of vegetation. 

Two logs were pointing in a V shape near the area, Wardrop said. When he rolled the log over, he found a white, plastic zip tie. 

The zip tie was cut, Wardrop said, and if the edges were pinched together, it would've made a "fairly small circle." 

A cadaver dog was called in to search the area, Wardrop said. The dog didn't hint to anything on the initial search, so police "probed" the ground to aerate scents from underneath. The dog also didn't alert them to anything after the second search. 

Wardrop said that he wanted to dig down into the disturbed area before police finished the search because he wouldn't have felt like it was a complete search if they didn't. 

That's when he found a white bra that had dirt and mud on it. But the bra didn't seem to be deteriorating or have any rips or tears in it, and didn't appear to be in the ground for very long, Wardrop said.


Interviewing Smoker

Police spoke with Smoker twice after identifying that he was the driver of the vehicle they believe was involved in Stoltzfoos' abduction. 

During the first interview, police canvased the area around Smoker's apartment, roughly five miles away from where Stoltzfoos was last seen. 

Jones said that Smoker denied knowing the area around Beechdale Road and that he would've had no reason to be there. Smoker also told police that he was the only person driving his car that day. 

The next day, police arrived at Dutchland Inc., where Smoker was employed.

Jones said that they wanted to ask Smoker some follow-up questions; Smoker agreed.

That interview went on for over an hour. 

Jones told the court that when they asked Smoker if he had seen Stoltzfoos, Smoker responded with "no" before looking at the photo of her. 

Tallarico argued that by that point, on July 10, it was possible that Smoker had seen photos of her posted due to her disappearance, noting her photo was highly publicized. 

An hour into the interview, Smoker told police that he had bought Chinese food and two beers between 12 and 1 p.m. from somewhere in the area of Beechdale Road. 

He told police that he may have been in the area because he was drinking and driving and taking back roads. 

When investigators asked him why he might have been in the area of Harvest Drive on June 23, where police recovered what they believe to be Stoltzfoos' bra and stockings buried underground, Smoker told police that if he was in the area, it was just to smoke weed, Jones said. 

Smoker is being held in Lancaster County Prison without bail. 

His formal arraignment is set for Aug. 28 at the Lancaster County Courthouse.

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