Editor's note: Justo Smoker pleaded guilty to third-degree murder, kidnapping and other charges. Click here to read more.
Justo Smoker, the man charged with abducting and killing Linda Stoltzfoos, the Amish woman who went missing last June as she walked home from church, intends to plead guilty on Friday.
Smoker, 35, of Paradise Township, is charged with homicide, kidnapping and false imprisonment in Stoltzfoos’ death. He is being held at Lancaster County Prison without bail.
The Lancaster County Court calendar says Smoker is scheduled to enter a guilty plea at 9 a.m. Friday, but it does not specify to which charges. His attorney, Christopher Tallarico, confirmed Smoker will plead guilty in the case, but declined to provide specifics. District Attorney Heather Adams has a news conference scheduled for Friday after the hearing but also declined comment on Wednesday.
Mervin Fisher, who is Linda Stoltzfoos’ uncle by marriage, said he plans to be at the guilty plea, but at this point, her parents do not, though that may change.
In Pennsylvania, homicide covers a range of culpability, from a less-serious charge of voluntary manslaughter to first-degree murder, which carries a potential punishment of the death penalty or life in prison without possibility of parole.
Prosecutors believe Stoltzfoos, 18, was abducted from near her Upper Leacock Township home last June 21 and killed shortly afterward.
Her body was found on April 21. She had been buried about 42 inches deep on Amtrak property behind Smoker’s former employer, Dutchland Inc., located on Rte. 41 south of Gap. The area had previously been searched, though the location where the remains were found is not easily accessible, Adams said at the time of recovery.
Stoltzfoos had been strangled and stabbed once in the neck, according to Lancaster County Coroner Dr. Stephen Diamantoni. The cause of death was asphyxia -- lack of oxygen to the brain -- as a result of strangulation and suffocation, with the stab wound a contributing factor.
Stoltzfoos was given a proper burial on April 26 at the Myers Cemetery burial grounds on East Eby Road, just a couple miles far from the Stoltzfoos’ family home.
According to prosecutors, Smoker had been driving around the area where Stoltzfoos lives, stalking Amish females last June 20 and 21.
Stoltzfoos was walking home from church when prosecutors contend Smoker abducted her at a farm lane intersecting Beechdale Road, just four-tenths of a mile from her parents’ home.
Prosecutors said they zeroed in on Smoker after reviewing footage from a home surveillance camera that showed his car on Beechdale on the day Stoltzfoos disappeared. He was arrested last July 10 at his work and initially charged only with kidnapping and false imprisonment.
Prosecutors added the homicide charge on Dec. 21 -- exactly six months after Stoltzfoos went missing -- after revealing that DNA samples collected by swabbing Smoker's cheeks matched DNA samples found on Stoltzfoos' blue bra and white stockings. Pennsylvania State Police found the items July 10, 2020, while searching a wooded area near a Ronks business.
A witness and data from Smoker's cell phone had placed him in the area of the business.
Smoker had been released from prison in February 2019 after serving the minimum of a 12-1/2- to 30-year sentence for a series of armed robberies he committed in 2006 with his brother.