LANCASTER COUNTY, Pa. — Today marks one year since the disappearance of Linda Stoltzfoos, the 18-year-old Amish girl who never returned home to her Lancaster County farm after attending church services on Father's Day.
After weeks of investigating, authorities arrested 34-year-old Justo Smoker of Paradise Township, initially charging him with kidnapping and false imprisonment in connection to Stoltzfoos' disappearance.
He was charged with first-degree murder in connection to the case later in the year by Lancaster County District Attorney Heather Adams.
Stoltzfoos' remains were discovered on April 21, on the property of a business where Smoker was formerly employed. An autopsy determined she died of asphyxia, with a knife wound to the neck as a contributing factor.
Here is a brief timeline of the events surrounding Stoltzfoos' disappearance, the efforts to locate her from volunteers, emergency personnel, and community members, and the arrest of Smoker, who is accused of kidnapping and murdering her.
- June 21, 2020 (Father’s Day): Stoltzfoos, 18, never returns home after attending a church service. She is last seen at a farm on Stumptown Road near the village of Bird-in-Hand in Lancaster County.
- June 22: Stoltzfoos is reported missing. Volunteers from the community and local fire and rescue departments begin searching for her.
- June 23: Search continues near Enterprise Drive and Old Philadelphia Pike.
- June 24: The FBI joins East Lampeter Township police in search efforts for Stoltzfoos. The effort included use of dogs, ATV equipment, and drones, while the Lancaster Mounted Police Unit also searches terrain on horseback.
- June 29: Investigators say they want to talk to anyone who was on Mill Creek School, Stumptown, Gibbons, Beechdale or Millcreek Roads between 8am and 4pm on Sunday, June, 21 when Stoltzfoos disappeared.
- July 1: East Lampeter Township Police ask the public to refrain from spreading rumors about Stoltzfoos' disappearance on social media.
- July 2: The FBI releases a composite image of Stoltzfoos dressed in street clothes instead of her traditional Amish garb in an effort to help locate her.
- July 10: The FBI offers a reward of up to $10,000 for information about Stoltzfoos’ disappearance.
- July 11: The Lancaster County District Attorney’s office announces an arrest has been made in the disappearance of Stoltzfoos. Justo Smoker, 34, of Paradise Township, is charged with kidnapping and false imprisonment.
- July 12: The search for Stoltzfoos continues in East Earl Township, as volunteers continue their attempts to locate her.
- August 5: Smoker is ordered to stand trial on kidnapping and false imprisonment charges after a preliminary hearing. Prosecutors show the judge photos of Smoker's vehicle driving around the site where some of Stoltzfoos' clothing was found buried, along with other details that appear to implicate him in her disapperance.
- August 13: Smoker waives his formal arraignment and pleads not guilty to the kidnapping and false imprisonment charges against him.
- September 17: Unsealed court documents reveal Smoker was texting his brother during the window of time in which Stoltzfoos went missing. The documents reveal police asked for search warrants for his car, his phone, his Paradise Township apartment, and a storage locker he rented on the 3300 block of Lincoln Highway in Paradise.
- December 21: The Lancaster County District Attorney's office announces homicide charges against Smoker. In the announcement, Lancaster County DA Heather Adams says "Smoker’s conduct on and around the time of Linda’s kidnapping, along with physical evidence, supports the allegations that he kidnapped and murdered her."
- March 5, 2021: A preliminary hearing is held on the homicide charges against Smoker. Evidence is presented, and a judge rules that there is enough evidence to charge Smoker with abducting and killing Stoltzfoos.
- April 21, 2021: Officials announce they have found human remains while searching for Stoltzfoos in a rural part of eastern Lancaster County. The Lancaster County Coroner has confirmed the body was discovered near Dutchland Inc. in Gap, Smoker's former place of employment. Her body was found wrapped in a tarp and buried near railroad tracks on the business' property.
- April 23, 2021: After performing an autopsy on the human remains found two days earlier, Lancaster County Coroner Dr. Stephen Diamantoni confirms the remains are those of Linda Stoltzfoos. Diamantoni rules asphyxia from strangulation and suffocation as the cause of death. He also says Stoltzfoos suffered a stab wound to the neck and lists the wound as a contributing factor in Stoltzfoos' death.