Authorities in Lancaster, Pennsylvania have charged an accused kidnapper with murder in the disappearance of Amish teen Linda Stoltzfoos.
According to The Patriot-News, the Lancaster County District Attorney’s Office announced Monday that police have filed criminal homicide charges against 34-year-old Justo Smoker — who is already accused of kidnapping and imprisoning Amish teen Linda Stoltzfoos, 18.
Stoltzfoos disappeared while walking home from church in Upper Leacock Township on June 21.
“In consideration of the evidence collected over the past six months, our office has approved the filing of a charge alleging Smoker killed Linda after kidnapping her while she walked home from church on Beechdale Road in Upper Leacock Township,” the DA’s office said in a press release.
The homicide charge is the result of a collaborative investigation between East Lampeter Township police, Pennsylvania State Police, FBI, and the District Attorney’s Office.
Despite the murder charge against Smoker, authorities have still not located the body of Amish teen Linda Stoltzfoos.
“Given the circumstances of Linda’s disappearance; specifically, that she was forcefully abducted by a stranger, we always feared she suffered a tragic fate,” Lancaster County District Attorney Heather Adams said Monday.
“After careful consideration of all of the facts uncovered by the investigation as a whole, we are now in a position —legally — to charge Smoker with murder.”
According to Crime-Online, police said the decision to file murder charges was informed by many pieces of evidence, including finding a bra and a pair of stockings buried in the ground near a business where Smoker was seen.
Stoltzfoos’ trek from church to home was around nine-tenths of a mile. Investigators believe that she stayed on the road while walking home because of a creek between the church and her residence. They also believe Smoker had pulled his car off into a farm lane, then approached Stoltzfoos as she walked.
An investigation into Smoker’s alleged kidnapping of Amish teen Linda Stoltzfoos also revealed he had purchased alcohol, multiple pairs of disposable cleaning gloves and shoe laces prior to his car being spotted in the area of the kidnapping.
Smoker later returned home, thoroughly washed his car, and then discarded a number of items — including shoe laces and gloves.
Smoker now faces charges of criminal homicide, kidnapping and false imprisonment.
According to The Daily Beast, authorities are determined to find the teen’s body to provide “closure to her family.”
Six months after Linda Stoltzfoos’ bra and stockings were discovered buried, authorities charged the man they say abducted the 18-year-old. Her body has never been found.
“Investigators and prosecutors must follow the facts, the evidence and the law to reach conclusions,” Adams said of Amish teen Linda Stoltzfoos.
“A careful review of each of these factors leads us to the inevitable conclusion that Linda is deceased and provides the basis for the filed charges.”
“There was nothing found, no report or evidence, that indicates Linda was planning to leave her home and community,” the DA noted, according to WGAL in Lancaster.
It was not immediately clear if Smoker has an attorney available to comment.
The length of her absence, the fact that she was kidnapped by a stranger and the discovery of her intimate clothing buried in the ground also supports the conclusion that Stoltzfoos is no longer alive, according to Adams.