Although Justo Smoker denied knowing missing Amish teen Linda Stoltzfoos to investigators, genealogy and newspaper records show the two are third cousins once removed.
Loren Johns, a retired professor at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary in Elkhart, Indiana, sent LNP | LancasterOnline a chart outlining a familial relationship between 34-year-old Smoker and 18-year-old Stoltzfoos.
Newspaper records confirm the distant relation.
Messages left with both families were not immediately returned Wednesday.
According to investigators, Smoker kidnapped Stoltzfoos June 21 while she was walking home from church. The Amish teenager still remains missing, despite police taking Smoker into custody last Friday.
Police said they believe Stoltzfoos was harmed after she was abducted. According to information and evidence, the Stoltzfoos family did not know Smoker, officials said Thursday during a news conference.
Johns, who is the recording secretary of the Swiss Anabaptist Genealogy Association, has created one of the largest databases of Amish and Mennonite families within the association with over 700,000 records.
He had been following Stoltzfoos' disappearance and said he was curious whether Stoltzfoos and Smoker could be related.
He quickly found that Smoker's great grandmother Fannie L. Fisher Stoltzfus and Stoltzfoos' great great grandmother Susan S. Fisher Stoltzfus were sisters, making Stoltzfoos and Smoker third cousins once removed.
LNP | LancasterOnline reported the Smoker family adopted Justo when he was 7, after he’d been living on the street.
Still, Johns said he was dubious that Smoker and Stoltzfoos would have known they were related. And just because they're related, doesn't mean they knew each other.
Within Mennonite and Amish circles, relations like these are common, Johns said.
In 2007, when Smoker was sentenced to 12 ½- to 30-years in prison, Stoltzfoos would have been about 6. Smoker was only recently released from prison in 2019, the state’s online inmate locator said.
The Smoker family made no mention of a familial relationship in a statement provided to WGAL.
Both Smoker and Stoltzfoos can trace their family lines to Isaac L. Fisher, who died in 1948, and was married to Susan Lapp.
An obituary for Fisher in the Intelligencer Journal boasted 186 descendants. When he died, Fisher had eight children, including Stoltzfoos’ great great grandmother and Smoker’s great grandmother, 93 grandchildren and 85 great grandchildren.