Linda Stoltzfoos' disappearance is unlikely to be tied to human trafficking, and more plausible as a consequence of a sexual assault, according to a retired FBI agent with expertise in kidnapping and a trafficking expert.
Authorities say the 18-year-old Amish woman was kidnapped around 12:40 p.m. June 21 as she walked the roughly mile route from the home where church was being held to her residence on Beechdale Road in Upper Leacock Township.
Justo Smoker, 34, of Paradise Township, has been charged with kidnapping her. He was released from prison 15 months ago after serving about half of a 12-1/2- to 30-year prison sentence for a series of armed robberies committed when he was 21.
Stoltzfoos has not been found.
Early on in her disappearance, people speculated she might have run away. But investigators said Stoltzfoos, who helped tutor students with learning disabilities in the Amish community, was happy with her life within the insular Amish community. And her stockings and bra were found several miles from where she was abducted, buried less than a foot deep in a wooded area that cell phone information places Smoker at soon after her abduction, according to prosecutors.
Others wondered if Stoltzfoos was abducted and forced into sex-trafficking.
Experts provided with details of the case say while that cannot be ruled out, it's also not likely. The more probable scenario is that Linda Stoltzfoos was taken for sexual purposes and may be dead.
Random abductions, while they may be sensational and headline-grabbing, are extremely rare.
The news outlet Reuters, using FBI data, reported in January 2019 that fewer than 350 people under 21 nation-wide were abducted by strangers annually between 2010-2017. LNP | LancasterOnline asked the FBI for more current data Monday, but did not immediately receive the data.
"In these types of cases, it's power and control," said Gregory M. Vecchi, Ph.D., former chief of the FBI's behavioral science unit and now a consultant and trainer for Vecchi Group International. Perpetrators "find a pretty girl and they want to have sex with her or do something sexual."
Vecchi stressed he was not speaking definitively about Stoltzfoos' case and said there's unknowns that could shape his opinion.
But with no indication that Smoker knew Stoltzfoos, one reason for kidnapping – money — would appear to be ruled out.
That Stoltzfoos was taken from a relatively rural area struck Vecchi as curious. Could she have been stalked, he wondered.
"These guys are going to pick the weakest in the crowd. He’s not going to go to the mall," Vecchi said.
Shea Rhodes, director and co-founder of the Villanova Law Institute to Address Commercial Sexual Exploitation, said while sexual trafficking can happen anywhere, it doesn't seem to fit here, especially given that Smoker has a criminal history and that Stoltzfoos' bra was found.
"This reads to me more like a guy who saw a vulnerable woman alone. He probably had some social and emotional issues and this is probably a kidnapping or sexual assault that potentially turned deadly," she said. "And that means she is probably not alive and that is terrible and sad."