Justo Smoker today pleaded guilty to third-degree murder, kidnapping and other charges, admitting to killing Linda Stoltzfoos in June of last year. He will serve a sentence of 35½-to-71 years in prison as part of a plea deal. Smoker is 35 years old. He will avoid the death penalty.
He also faces further charges over a parole violation which could add about 17½ more years. Lancaster County District Attorney Heather Adams called this an effective life sentence in today’s press conference:
The deal was agreed in April in order to locate Linda’s body. From Lancaster Online:
The plea agreement, which was signed in April when he told investigators where he had buried her body, included a sentence of 35-1/2 years to 71 years in prison — the maximum possible — giving the 35-year-old only the most unlikely chance of ever seeing freedom again. The sentence will technically begin after a parole violation hearing in which he faces about 17-1/2 years stemming from prior armed robbery convictions.
All told, Smoker faces the likelihood of 88 years beyond bars, effectively a life sentence, according to the prosecution and judge.
The location of the body is the leverage that killers have to save them from execution in cases like this. So Smoker took advantage of the knowledge only he had, after months and months of exhaustive searches failed to turn up Linda’s remains. Smoker had first buried her in a different location, but moved her two days later after realizing that may have been a mistake. WGAL:
Investigators said Smoker admitted in April – 10 months after Stoltzfoos went missing as she walked home from church – that he had strangled and stabbed her.
He told investigators that he’d initially buried Stoltzfoos to the rear of Harvest Drive in Ronks, where police eventually found some of her clothing.
According to investigators, Smoker said he later moved Stoltzfoos’ body after he realized the original burial site was close to her Upper Leacock Township home.
After the deal was made, Smoker delivered the critical information:
Smoker drew a map for police detailing where he’d left her along some railroad tracks behind his former workplace in Gap.
“Investigators, unable to find the site or any indication of a grave, then escorted Smoker from the East Lampeter Township police station to the burial site and within a short time, Linda’s remains were recovered wrapped in a tarp and buried approximately 42 inches deep,” Adams said.
D.A. Adams said the deal was made because over time investigators had lost confidence that they would be able “to bring Linda home.” Both Linda’s family and investigators agreed with the plea deal approach in order to find Linda’s body. Essentially they believed they wouldn’t have found her body otherwise.
Adams explains that in this video, as well as showing photos of the location where Linda’s remains were recovered.
It was reported by WGAL that Linda’s parents were grateful for the plea agreement so that they could avoid a trial and having to relive the horrific experience again. Also from WGAL:
Stoltzfoos’ parents were not in the courtroom. Family spokesperson Samuel Blank said it was too hard for them.
Blank said Stoltzfoos was a caring, loving, timid young lady with a big heart for children who needed help. The family and the community will never be the same, he said.
Smoker apologized to Stoltzfoos’ family.
“I know Linda was a light. Because of me, the world is dimmer. All I can say is I’m sorry,” he said.
Judge David Ashford described Smoker’s actions as the height of depravity, as well as cowardly and despicable.
“Justo Smoker should never be given the chance again to inflict pain and carnage on the community,” Ashworth said.
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Why?? He didn’t ever explain the part!! Why did he do what he did?? I always said from the get go..that she was not going to be found alive! 🙁
Reply to Beverly
It was sexually motivated.
I have been following this story since it first broke. My heart hurts so much for Ms. Stoltzfus’ family and friends, and especially because such a kind, compassionate woman was struck down when she had her whole life in front of her. I’m not really a praying person, but I will continue holding Linda and her family in my heart and am at least grateful there is a modicum of justice being served. Rest in peace, sweet girl.
He didn’t appreciate his life here
His adoptive parents should have left him in the Dominican Republic, spared us.
Just make sure
He spends the full sentence in prison. No time off for good behavior. If he gets 35 1/2 years and gets a third knocked off for good behavior he could be out in just over 20 years. And saying he faces up to 17 1/2 years for parole violation…that may be, but will the judge sentence him to the full term for that violation? If he faces several charges will those sentences be served consecutively (one after the other)or concurrently (all at the same time). It makes a HUGE difference.
I'm enrolling in law school IMMEDIATELY!
Good evening,Friends, I am so grateful to have been able to read this article, and also that we can all say what we think together. I am not trying to show off, I’m grateful to be able to say what I think someplace where we all can come together. Anyway, no way am I taking this lying down. I’m starting the LSATS book tonight. This is unacceptable to me, so I am going to finally do what must be done to make sure full justice is served. This is over-the-top sociopathy, combined with continued pathological lying our nation is honored to completely stop. There’s no way Linda was found by this guy not able to hide in any road where Linda and her friends and/or something sibblings were most definitely walking together. There’s way more to this atrocity than this sociopath has admitted. I know this will take time, but I won’t leave this Earth til the whole truth is pulled out, stricter punishment is enforced, and also til Linda Stoltzfoos’whole family received WAY more comfort and help than they have been given so far. Poor baby, a 17- YEAR-OLD KID?! This is over-the-top cruelty to the max, and this monster knew exactly what he was doing. No more.