Justo Smoker was arrested last year and charged with kidnapping missing Amish girl Linda Stoltzfoos in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. The 18-year-old woman was last seen walking home from church June 21, 2020, and remains were found Wednesday, April 21, 2021, related to her disappearance according to the Lancaster District Attorney’s Office.
Smoker has been charged with criminal homicide and kidnap, and is awaiting trial, according to his docket sheet. Stoltzsfoos was last seen in the area of Bird-in-Hand, Pennsylvania on Father’s Day 2020. Surveillance footage and witness accounts led investigators to Smoker, 34, of Paradise, Pennsylvania. Police continued the search for Stoltzfoos for 10 months, and said early in the investigation they believed she was harmed, according to the East Lampeter Township Police Department.
Smoker was a high school wrestling star who spent the majority of his adult life in prison following a string of robberies when he was 21. He pleaded guilty to robbing four businesses in a six-day period. Smoker was adopted at age 7, and his adopted parents told a judge at his sentencing that they would support him after he was released from prison.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Justo Smoker Was Charged With Felony Kidnapping & a Misdemeanor, False Imprisonment, in Linda Stoltzfoos’ Disappearance & Later Charged With Homicide
Justo Smoker was charged with kidnapping to inflict injury/terror, a felony, and false imprisonment, a misdemeanor, according to the docket sheet filed in his case. An additional charged of criminal homicide was filed in December, his additional docket sheet shows. Smoker was arrested Friday, July 10, 2020 in the disappearance of 18-year-old Linda Stoltzfoos, after police found her clothes buried in a rural area where witnesses said they saw Smoker’s car. The Amish teen remains missing. Police arrested him at his place of employment. His initial charges were filed Saturday, July 11, 2020 before Magisterial District Judge B. Denise Commins in Upper Leacock Township, Pennsylvania. The charges were filed by East Lampeter Township police Detective Christopher Jones.
Smoker, of Paradise, Pennsylvania, was arraigned before on-call Magisterial District Judge Joshua R. Keller, who denied bail in the case. Keller denied bail due to the nature of the case and the ongoing investigation into Stoltzfoos’ disappearance, Smoker’s docket sheet says.
“Bail Action Reason: Due to the nature of the charges and ongoing investigation into the status of the victim,” the docket sheet said.
Smoker’s charges were filed by the East Lampeter Township Police Department following an investigation assisted by the FBI, Pennsylvania State Police and the Lancaster County District Attorney’s Office.
2. Police Continued the Search for Stoltzfoos for 10 Months
Police never gave up the search for 18-year-old Linda Stolzfoos, who was last seen walking home from church, according to the East Lampeter Township Police Department. On Wednesday, April 21, 2021, officials announced they recovered remains related to the search. They did not immediately determine definitively whether the remains were of the missing Amish girl, saying that the scene would be forensically processed.
“Law enforcement and other community groups have searched extensively since June to bring Linda Stoltzfoos home. The searches consisted of over 15,000 man-hours,” a statement from the District Attorney’s Office said.
Stolztfoos’ father reported her missing when she did not return home after a youth group gathering late in the evening June 21, 2020. Surveillance footage led authorities to Smoker, whose red Kia Rio was spotted parked in a rural location in Ronks. Police searched that area the night before the arrest and found Stolzfoos’ clothes buried, they said. Multiple witnesses also reported to police they saw an Amish female in a car matching the description of Smoker’s red Kia Rio, and the abduction was captured on surveillance footage, police said.
3. Justo Smoker Spent Most of His Adult Life in Prison for a 2006 Robbery Spree
Justo Roberto Smoker has a criminal history stretching back to 2005. He was charged in a string of robberies in 2006, according to court documents filed in his case, and spent most of his adult life in prison.
Lancaster Online reported Smoker committed a string of robberies armed with a BB gun, along with his younger brother, Victor. The brothers robbed four different businesses and farm markets in a six-day stretch between August 8, 2006 and August 13, 2006, the news outlet reported. You can view his docket sheets online here. Smoker pleaded guilty, and he was sentenced to serve 12 1/2 to 30 years in prison.
Smoker also pleaded guilty to burglary and robbery in cases stemming from 2005 incidents, according to Pennsylvania’s Unified Judicial System. On February 16, 2007, he was charged with robbery and related charges by Pennsylvania State Police in Avondale, stemming from an incident June 6, 2005. He pleaded guilty to robbery in 2007, and was sentenced to serve five to 12 years in prison, according to his docket sheet.
On September 20, 2006, he was arrested for burglary and related charges stemming from a September 11, 2005 incident in East Earl Township. He pleaded guilty May 16, 2007, and was sentenced to serve 15 to 30 months, his docket sheet said.
4. Justo Smoker Was a High School Wrestling Star & Earned a Place on the Lancaster-Lebanon All-Star Team
Justo Smoker was a high school wrestling star who did well in school, but turned to crime in his early adulthood. He spent the majority of his adult life in prison following a string of robberies in 2006, when he was 21 years old, according to his criminal history. He also committed a burglary and a robbery in 2005, his court documents indicated.
Lancaster Online reported Smoker was a star wrestler. He had a 3.0 grade point average at Pequea Valley High School and earned a place on the Lancaster-Lebanon wrestling all-star team in 2003.
Judge Joseph Madenspacher told Smoker that he could have sentenced him to serve double the 12 1/2 to 30-year sentence, or even sentence him to serve his life in prison, according to a Lancaster Online article from 2007. Instead, he gave him a sentence to ensure “society is protected, but that you could still come out and lead a reasonable life,” the article said.
5. Justo Smoker Was Adopted at Age 7 After He Was ‘Living on the Street,’ His Defense Attorney Told a Judge in 2007
Justo Smoker was adopted by Vernon and Deb Smoker of Lancaster, Pennsylvania when he was 7 years old. Before that, he was “living on the street, just trying to survive,” his defense attorney, Cory Miller, told a judge when Smoker appeared in court to be sentenced on robbery charges in 2007, according to Lancaster Online.
“They raised me better than this,” Smoker told the judge. “I’m sorry for what I did and the people I hurt, including my family” he added. “But I’m glad they’re here.”
Smoker’s adopted father said Smoker had been “trouble since we got him,” adding he noticed a positive attitude shift since Smoker had been in county jail. Deb Smoker committed to supporting her adopted son during his incarceration and after he was released from prison.
“We’re are here for Justo,” Deb Smoker said. “He has an extended family and church family.”
Smoker was identified as a person of interest in Stolzfoos’ kidnapping after police received information about a red or orange vehicle in the Gap area on the afternoon of her abduction. Several witnesses reported seeing an Amish female in the passenger seat of the vehicle, driven by a male. Police also obtained surveillance footage, enhanced by FBI technicians, which shows the young woman’s abduction on Beechdale Road. That road was part of Stolzfoos’ route back home from church. Investigators learned she never made it to her youth social gathering.
“Police found nothing indicating Stoltzfoos was unhappy and wanted to leave her community,” East Lampeter Township Police said.
Police are still seeking information to help close the case and find the missing woman.
“Investigators are asking anyone who might have seen Smoker – or his red Kia Rio sedan – around the time Stoltzfoos was abducted, and in the days after, to contact police at 717-291-4676,” East Lampeter Township Police said.
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