Behind The Search For Linda Stoltzfoos

This AP story recounts the efforts that went into finding Linda Stoltzfoos, and reveals a detail that I wasn’t aware of, on how she was eventually found. First, it captures well just how much the community came out for this girl:

Tim Hoerner, president of the Hand-in-Hand Fire Company in Bird-in-Hand, which was also involved in the early searches, also recalled the impact on the community. He recalled going to the Stoltzfoos home on Beechdale Road that Monday morning. Police were already there.

“We were looking at it from, hopefully it was going to be a short-term search,” he said.

As Hoerner and others created a command center, he said, tremendous numbers of people came out, wanting to help.

The Amish are very involved in the fire company. Neighbors and friends also turned out.

“You almost can’t believe it to see when you have 400 to 600 people turn up for a search. You better have a plan in place,” he said, explaining the need for volunteer sign-ins, communications, food arrangements, debriefing and such.

Here is another example, about searches in an area of Lancaster County called Welsh Mountain. This is a heavily-wooded area of the county which is unlike a lot of the rest of what you picture when you think of the farmlands of the county. Middle Creek is the name of a local search-and-rescue organization:

Middle Creek led four searches there. Depending on the area, the terrain could be heavily wooded, thickets, or farm fields. The Lancaster Conservancy has a 940-acre nature preserve there, or about 1.5 square miles.

At times searchers were just five to 10 feet from each other, according to Middle Creek Chief Wesley Clark.

Being about 20 to 30 feet apart is more common.

By fall, formal searches were off. Search and rescue teams don’t just respond on their own, Clark said. Instead, they are called on by law enforcement or another official agency and act on their directives. And law enforcement doesn’t share everything it knows with searchers, he said.

The search would also become by far that organization’s largest search by far in its 27 years.

The search for Stoltzfoos was the only time Middle Creek did not find who they were looking for, Clark said.

Linda’s body was eventually found. For those wondering how, this detail shared in an Amish publication reveals in part how that happened:

In the May issue of The Diary, a monthly newspaper for the Amish across the country, Henry Fisher wrote, “So a group of FBI and county agents searched in vain last Wednesday April 21 until they fetched the hand-cuffed prisoner to the property where he showed them where the grave was. True to his work, the body was found wrapped in tarp 42 inches below surface. About two hours later the news appeared on the “Linda’s hotline” and spread around fast bringing a measured relief to anyone, especially to those who still carried a churning weight in their stomach of questioning grief.”

Adams has declined to comment on how investigators learned Stoltzfoos’ location.

The efforts exerted to locate Linda Stoltzfoos reflect the strength of not just the Amish community but the extended Lancaster County community as well. Linda is now buried, hopefully providing her family something to help healing. A trial date for the accused in her murder has not yet been set.

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    1. Connie May


      My heart and thoughts are with Linda’s family, loosing a child is so hard especially when it’s through a horrific crime may God bless them and heal their heart and thank God for a wonderful community that is willing to help search for her and all the prayers i lift up for her even in here in Lexington Kentucky as I posted everything about her on there like I said many prayers for your family and friends and the community Connie sue. May Lexington and Kentucky

    2. I just Read

      To Linda’s Family,
      My heart was broken when she was first reported
      Missing. I prayed and tried to find her. Looking
      Over the map of the area. Yes I know I had no
      Clue of her whereabouts. I continued reading.
      It became fall the cold weather was setting in.
      I gasped at the thought of her being out there.
      I tried to follow up on things. All I could think
      Was last year must have been scary time
      For many Amish. Who also lost loved ones.
      I’m glad Linda is home. Resting in the field where
      She will never go missing again.
      God Bless you all. I know your heart hurts losing
      A beautiful soul. One day you will meet again.
      Rest now Linda in Peace.