Human remains have been found in a rural area of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, during a search related to the disappearance of 18-year-old Linda Stoltzfoos, the Amish woman who has been missing since June 21, 2020, the Lancaster County District Attorney’s Office announced Wednesday.
Wednesday marked exactly 10 months since Linda disappeared while walking home from church.
Members of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, East Lampeter Township Police Department and Pennsylvania State Police were called to the scene, which is being forensically processed. The remains will then be released to the Lancaster County Coroner’s Office for official identification and to determine the cause and manner of death.
Linda was last seen around 12:30 p.m. on June 21, 2020, in the area of Bird-in-Hand, East Lampeter Township, while walking home from church, Lieutenant Matt Hess told Dateline just days after Linda vanished. When Linda didn’t make it to her youth group later that evening, her parents became concerned and called the police.
Justo Smoker, 34, of Paradise, Pennsylvania, became a person of interest in connection to the disappearance after police received information from multiple witnesses about seeing an Amish woman in the passenger side of a red/orange vehicle. The vehicle was also seen in the Gap area on the afternoon Linda went missing.
In July 2020, investigators searched a rural location in Ronks, where they believed Linda might have been taken after being kidnapped.
Smoker’s vehicle had been seen parked at that location on June 23. Investigators found articles of clothing believed to belong to Linda buried in a wooded area there.
Police obtained security video – enhanced by FBI forensic technicians – that depicts Linda being abducted on Beechdale Road, where she had been walking home from church. That video also shows a red Kia Rio, that police said was involved in the abduction. Witness descriptions of the driver and vehicle are consistent with Smoker and his vehicle.
One month after Linda’s disappearance, Smoker was charged with felony kidnapping and misdemeanor false imprisonment. In December of 2020, Smoker was then charged with homicide relating to Linda’s death after prosecutors alleged that the passage of time, along with the complete cessation of all routine activities, led to the inevitable conclusion that Linda was deceased and that Smoker caused her death.
Smoker is currently charged with one count of criminal homicide relating to the death and is incarcerated at Lancaster County Prison awaiting trial.
According to the Lancaster County District Attorney’s Office, the Stoltzfoos family has been notified of this update and are asking that the family be given privacy during this difficult time.
A statement was posted to the Facebook Page Amish Girl Missing – Linda Stoltzfoos on Wednesday that read, “Thank you for all your prayers and support to help bring Linda home. At this time, We regret to inform you that her body has been found. Please continue to keep the family in your prayers as they grieve. The PO box is still open to letters of encouragement and support.”
Anyone with additional information that could be helpful to the case is asked to call 717-291-4676 or submit a tip on the Crime Watch website.