Preliminary Hearing For Justo Smoker in Linda Stoltzfoos Case Happening Today (Update: Judge Rules Case Will Proceed To County Court)

From abc27:

UPPER LEACOCK TOWNSHIP, Pa. (WHTM) — Prosecutors will try to convince a district judge that they have enough evidence to move forward with their case against a man accused of kidnapping and killing a young Amish woman.

The preliminary hearing for Justo Smoker is Friday at 1:30 p.m.

Linda Stoltzfoos, 18, was last seen walking home from church in June 2020.

The hearing will take place at the magisterial district judge’s office in Lancaster County. This hearing was originally scheduled for December but was postponed.

Linda was first handled as a missing persons case, until Smoker was charged with her murder in December based upon the evidence they had gathered.

UPDATE: Further explanation of what’s happening today, via Lancaster Online:

At a preliminary hearing, prosecutors have to present sufficient evidence that a crime was committed and that the defendant probably is responsible and, therefore, that a jury or judge should hear the case at the county court level.

UPDATE 2: The judge has ruled that the case should be heard at the county court:

At the conclusion of the hearing at Lancaster County Courthouse, which lasted about 1 hour and 20 minutes, District Judge Denise Commins ruled the prosecution had met that burden.

The next step in the homicide case will be a formal arraignment, where a judge will read the charge to Smoker and where he will enter a plea of not guilty or guilty. That is scheduled for March 26.

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