A Pennsylvania man is facing charges of allegedly kidnapping an Amish teenager who hasn’t been seen since she left a June church service, after authorities discovered surveillance footage showing him approach her on a rural roadside—and her undergarments buried in a nearby wooded area.
Authorities said a bra and stockings belonging to 18-year-old Linda Stoltzfoos was found buried “several inches” underground near where they say she was taken by Justo Smoker, 34.
Smoker was charged Friday with felony kidnapping and misdemeanor false imprisonment in connection with the June 21 disappearance, the Lancaster County District Attorney’s Office said. Investigators say Stoltzfoos was last seen around 12:30 p.m. at a farm on Stumptown Road in the heart of Pennsylvania’s bucolic Amish country. The arrest was first reported by LancasterOnline.
“The whereabouts of Linda Stoltzfoos remain unknown. Investigators are actively searching and working to determine what happened to Stoltzfoos after she was taken,” the distinct attorney’s office said in a statement. “Investigators have reason to believe Stoltzfoos was harmed following her abduction.”
East Lampeter Township police said they were first alerted Stoltzfoos was missing at around 2 a.m. on June 22 when the teenager—who was wearing a tan dress, white apron, and white cape—failed to return to her Beechdale Road home after attending a church service just down the road. Nobody realized Stoltzfoos was missing for hours because her parents thought she had gone to a youth group—and her friends there believed she never showed up because she was sick at home, authorities said.
“There is no reason for us to believe that she wanted to just leave,” a spokesperson previously told The Daily Beast. “That’s what makes it an unusual circumstance—it’s totally out of character for Linda. This is not a normal missing person’s investigation for us, I will say that. It’s not typical to be receiving a missing person’s case from the Amish community here.”
According to LancasterOnline, one of Stoltzfoos’ friends told authorities the teenager had left the church after the two had washed dishes together after three-hour Mass—which ended at noon. While they were washing dishes, Stoltzfoos told her friend she planned to go home and change before she went to their youth group meeting. Once the pair were done cleaning, the friend told police Stoltzfoos left to walk home barefoot, with her shoes in her hand.
“Police found nothing indicating Stoltzfoos was unhappy and wanted to leave her community,” the district attorney’s office said.
Authorities said that along the 19-minute walk from the Stumptown Road farm to Stoltzfoos’s home, a red Kia Rio approached the teenager at around 12:42 p.m. They say surveillance footage shows the 18-year-old walking south on Beechdale Road when an unidentified person police believe to be Smoker approached her. The footage shows the individual, who came from the direction of the Kia Rio, walk toward Stolzfoos. Seconds later, Stoltzfoos goes out of frame with the individual and the red car drives away.
“Smoker became a person of interest in the kidnapping after police received information about a red/orange vehicle seen in the Gap area on the afternoon of the abduction,” the district attorney’s office said in a statement. “Multiple witnesses in that area reported seeing an Amish female in the passenger seat of a vehicle driven by a male. Witness descriptions of the driver and vehicle are consistent with Smoker and his vehicle.”
Police also said that two hours after Stolzfoos was abducted, cellphone records show Smoker was at a rural location in Ronks—about three miles away—where they believe the teenager was taken.
On Friday, investigators searched that location in Ronks, where Smoker’s car was also parked on June 23, according to the cellphone location data. At the location, investigators said they “found buried in a wooded area articles of clothing believed to believe to Stolzfoos.” Investigators found Stolzfoos’s bra and stockings buried several inches underground, according to LancasterOnline.
Smoker was arrested Friday night at work and was arraigned the next morning, where District Judge Joshua Keller made the 34-year-old ineligible for bail because of the nature of the charges. The Lancaster County District Attorney’s Office said investigators are still searching for Stolzfoos. It is not immediately clear if Smoker has a lawyer.
“She was a sweet, quiet girl who would never put herself in a troublesome situation,” one family friend previously told The Daily Beast. “We are shocked—her even leaving without informing anybody where she was going is out of character. This is all out of character.”