The judge at a preliminary hearing yesterday found that there was enough evidence to move forward with a trial in the case of Linda Stoltzfoos’ disappearance. Justo Smoker will be tried for felony kidnapping and misdemeanor imprisonment. Detective Christopher Jones testified. Via Penn Live:
“She was nice, caring and always wanted to know about other people,” Jones testified today.
The 18-year-old taught at an Amish school and worked in a nearby market. She didn’t have many non-Amish friends and never had a boyfriend.
She was active in her church and a youth group, and nothing out of the ordinary was going on in her life.
There was no reason that she would want to leave, Jones told the court. That’s why he and her family think something terrible happened to Linda Stoltzfoos. They believe she was kidnapped after leaving church June 21.
Furthering that notion, witnesses told Jones they saw a red Kia in the area, and some saw an Amish girl in the passenger seat – which would have been unusual on a Sunday, particularly while wearing her traditional church clothing.
Jones testified that police soon traced the Kia to Justo Smoker, 34, of Paradise Township.
Jones testified about the surveillance video:
East Lampeter Township police detective Christopher Jones said surveillance video recorded the kidnapping. The video wasn’t shown, but Jones described it.
He said a vehicle pulls onto the berm of Beechdale Road. A person is seen walking on the other side of the road. A male exits the vehicle and approaches the pedestrian. After a 6-second interaction, the two walk back to the car together.
Investigators allege Stoltzfoos was the pedestrian and Smoker was the man in the car, the release said.
At least two additional details were revealed in testimony, both chilling:
One witness told Jones that the girl believed to be Stoltzfoos did not return her wave from the car – also unusual in the Amish community – adding, “she looked at me with pleading eyes.”
A cadaver dog and forensics team were brought in, and police soon found buried there a bra and a pair of stockings, which Jones said Stoltzfoos’ family identified as belonging to her. They also found a zip tie, which had been cut.
The buried clothing was known, but I believe this is the first public mention of a zip tie also being found.
Smoker’s Kia Rio
Smoker’s defense attorney attempted to raise some questions about the evidence:
Defense attorney Christopher Tallarico worked to poke holes in some of the testimony and evidence. He pointed out that some of the details on the Kia, like the black trim, could not be seen on the zoomed-in video of the abduction, and he called the image that Jones said was Stoltzfoos walking from church “pixels.” He argued it’s not identifiable as a human being, but Jones said one could clearly see it is someone walking.
I don’t want to turn this into a crime or legal website, but a number of you have been asking for updates on Linda’s case. So I’ll plan to keep you informed with posts when the news warrants it.
Smoker will be arraigned on August 28. Linda remains missing.
If you have any info on the case, please call East Lampeter Township Police at 717-291-4676, or Pennsylvania State Police at 717-299-7650.
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