GAP, Pa. — The case of missing Amish teenager Linda Stoltzfoos will soon move ahead to its next step: the autopsy of the human remains found April 21 and presumed to be hers.
Lancaster County District Attorney Heather Adams said at a press conference April 22 she strongly believes and can comfortably say the remains are of Stoltzfoos.
“The dress, bonnet, and shoes [were] consistent with what Linda was wearing on the date of her disappearance,” Adams said.
Investigators discovered the remains wrapped in tarp that was buried up to 42 inches below ground.
The autopsy to determine cause and manner of death is scheduled for April 23. Coroner Dr. Stephen Diamantoni said he expected the cause and manner of death to be determined quickly—likely within a day. Definitive DNA identification of the body could take longer.
Because of decomposition any clues left would likely be left on the bones, according to forensic experts.
“You could get some marks from a bullet, you could get marks from a knife, you could get marks from compression, from thumps. These are the things that they’re probably looking at at this point,” said Robert Furey, a forensic entomologist and Dauphin County deputy coroner, as well as a professor of integrative sciences at Harrisburg University.
The discovery could bolster or hurt the case against Justo Smoker, the 35-year-old charged in Stoltzfoos’s killing.
“More often than not there will be forensic evidence with that body and through that autopsy, which will be and should be used against the criminal defendant at a criminal homicide prosecution,” said Chris Ferro, criminal defense attorney at York-based Ferro Law Firm.
District Attorney Adams said with the new evidence, she was even more confident her office could “secure justice” for Stoltzfoos and her family.
“No-body prosecutions are difficult,” Adams said. “It’s often the recovery of the body that answers many of the questions as far as how the victim died.”
Smoker’s attorney, Lancaster County Chief Public Defender Christopher Tallarico, declined to comment for this story.
The body was found near Dutchland, Inc., a manufacturing company that employed Smoker. The company wrote in a statement,
“We are all shocked and saddened by this news. Our sympathies go out to the victim’s family, and we are continuing to cooperate with law enforcement as they investigate this tragic case. As a longtime member of this community, we hope and pray for healing and closure.”
The Stoltzfoos family was notified and taken to the scene of the discovery, Adams said, in an effort to grant some closure.