Editor's note: Justo Smoker pleaded guilty to third-degree murder, kidnapping and other charges. Click here to read more.
It’s been just over one year and one month since Amish teenager Linda Stoltzfoos disappeared on her way home from church, and three months since Lancaster County officials found her remains near where Justo Roberto Smoker, the man charged with killing her, worked.
Friday, July 23, Smoker pleaded guilty to third-degree murder, kidnapping and other charges.
Here’s a look at what we do and don’t know ahead about Linda, her disappearance, Smoker and what’s next.
What we know
Linda Stoltzfoos went missing in June 2020.
Stoltzfoos was an 18-year-old Amish woman from Upper Leacock Township, about six miles east of downtown Lancaster. She went missing June 21, 2020, while walking from church on Stumptown Road to her family’s home on Beechdale Road.
A video surveillance camera at a home on Beechdale captured Smoker’s red Kia Rio stop and a figure -- believed to be Stoltzfoos -- approach the car the day she went missing. This led investigators to conclude she was abducted, and searches continued for months afterward. Searches totaled about 15,000 hours, Adams said.
Based on where Smoker’s cell phone information placed him and other information, searchers focused on the Welsh Mountain area some 13 miles east of where Stoltzfoos went missing.
By fall 2020, formal searches were off.
Within a month, Smoker was charged with her kidnapping.
On July 10, 2020, police charged Smoker with kidnapping and false imprisonment in Stoltzfoos’ disappearance. They arrested him at his work, Dutchland Inc., on Route 41 south of Gap.
Investigators say they had reason to believe Stoltzfoos was harmed because they found her bra and stockings buried behind a business on Harvest Lane in Ronks, where Smoker’s car had been seen.
Smoker denied knowing missing Stoltzfoos to investigators, but genealogy and newspaper records show the two are third cousins once removed.
Smoker was charged with homicide, kidnapping and false imprisonment. The district attorney’s office filed new charges of abuse of corpse, tampering with evidence and possession of an instrument of crime against Smoker on Thursday, July 22, 2021.
Smoker was officially charged with third-degree murder, kidnapping and other charges. False imprisonment was dropped in the plea agreement because it was a lesser charge than kidnapping.
Investigators found Stoltzfoos’ body nine months later.
Stoltzfoos’ body was found on April 21, 2021, along with a bonnet, dress and shoes "consistent with the clothing worn ... the day of her disappearance," Adams said.
Linda's remains were found buried in a hole up to 42 inches deep and wrapped in a tarp on Amtrak property behind Dutchland.
Lancaster County Coroner Dr. Stephen Diamantoni determined that Stoltzfoos had been stabbed once in the neck and strangled. The cause of death was asphyxia -- lack of oxygen to the brain -- as a result of strangulation and suffocation.
Adams said she and her team believe Stoltzfoos' body was first buried near the Ronks business where investigators found her bra and stockings and later moved to the area behind Dutchland. Searchers had looked for Stoltzfoos near Dutchland, but Adams said where her body was found was not easily accessible.
How investigators found her body.
In exchange for a third-degree murder charge, Smoker drew a map for investigators as to where Stoltzfoos' body was. After investigators were unable to find her body, they took Smoker to the scene, where he identified the location in-person.
Smoker will get 35 1/2 years to 71 years in prison.
The plea agreement was made with the intention of keeping him in prison for the rest of his life. Stoltzfoos' family agreed with the decision, said family spokesman Sam Blank.
He may also get up to 17 years in prison for violating parole from a previous armed robbery.
What’s Smoker’s background?
Smoker was a former high school wrestling all-star who had a 3.0 grade point average and earned a place on the Lancaster-Lebanon wrestling all-star team in 2003, according to LNP|LancasterOnline reporting.
But he and his brother, Victor, committed a string of armed robberies of businesses in eastern Lancaster County using a BB gun between Aug. 8 and Aug. 13, 2006.
Both pleaded guilty. At Justo’s sentencing, his defense attorney said he had been living on the street, just trying to survive, when he was adopted at age 7 by Vernon and Deb Smoker.
Justo was sentenced 12 1/2 to 30 years in prison and was released in 2019 after serving the minimum. Victor was released from prison in 2016.
What we don’t know
While investigators haven’t given a motive in Stoltzfoos’ killing, prosecutors said Smoker had been driving around the area where she lived, stalking Amish females the day and day before she disappeared
Timeline on Stoltzfoos’ death.
Adams said that Stoltzfoos likely died within hours of being abducted, but there's not yet a concrete timeline.
How, when or why Stoltzfoos’ body was moved.
Adams has not given a detailed timeline when the body was moved from the first location, where her bra and stockings were found, to where it was found near Smoker’s work.