Man Pleads Guilty to Murder of Amish Woman As She Walked Home from Church

The Pennsylvania man who abducted and killed Amish teenager Linda Stoltzfoos pleaded guilty to third-degree murder and said “I’m sorry” as he was handed a sentence to 35.5 years to 71 years behind bars, the District Attorney’s office announced on last Friday.

Justo Smoker, 35, entered pleas of guilty to kidnapping, abuse of a corpse, tampering with evidence, and possession of an instrument of crime.

“Smoker may serve up to 88.5 years of incarceration as a result of the agreement and sentence imposed today. This is effectively a life sentence for Smoker,” Adams said.

On June 18, 2020, Stoltzfoos disappeared from Lancaster County. She was last seen walking home from church in the Bird-in-Hand area near her home to change into something else for a youth group meeting. Stoltzfoos was strangled and stabbed in the neck, according to the Lancaster County coroner’s office, NBC News previously reported.

Stoltzfoos’ remains were found in a shallow grave along railroad tracks behind a business where Smoker had worked, according to the news outlet.

Her body was found wrapped in a tarp with her dress, bonnet, and shoes still on. Authorities believe the body had been moved from where it was initially buried, a wooded area where police recovered the girl’s bra and stockings. DNA found on the clothing was confirmed to be Smoker’s, People reported.

“Today through this negotiated plea agreement and sentence we successfully achieved each of these goals by bringing Linda home and securing a conviction and imposing the life sentence today,” Adams said. “There is so simply no question justice has been served.”

The family spokesperson described Stoltzfoos as a “caring, loving, and timid young lady with a big heart for children,” and said “the family and the community will never be the same,” WGAL reported.

The simple, family-centered Amish culture in Lancaster County keeps their devout faith community separate from their more secular countrymen. They believe in a literal interpretation and application of Scripture as the Word of God, including biblical commands to separate themselves from the things of the world. They believe worldliness can keep them from being close to God, and introduce influences that could be destructive to their communities and to their way of life.

Sparky Grace, who is known to the victim’s family, described the woman as a “beautiful human being” in a tribute after her remains were found.

“I never met a teenage, young woman like Linda. Never a complaint and always moving to lend a helping hand, her meek ways were beyond rare. We did not lose a cute Amish girl. We did not lose a young woman. We lost a ‘beautiful’ human being resilient with the qualities many would hope to aspire in a lifetime. We lost Linda,” he wrote on Facebook.

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