Some new info in the Linda Stoltzfoos disappearance case. Unsealed court documents have shown that kidnapping suspect Justo Smoker sent multiple messages to his brother Victor in a window of time beginning about 20 minutes after Linda was last seen.
The detective who applied for the search warrant stated that the text messages “would be directly after Linda Stoltzfoos was kidnapped.” Via Lancaster Online:
In a search warrant application to examine Justo Smoker’s LG smartphone, East Lampeter Township police Detective Chris Jones said records he obtained showed that Smoker texted and sent multimedia messages to his brother, Victor Smoker, 15 times between about 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. on June 21.
Stoltzfoos, 18, was last seen about 12:40 p.m. that day, according to authorities. She was walking to her family’s home on Beechdale Road in Upper Leacock Township after church.
Prosecutors allege that video evidence shows Smoker’s vehicle and a man alleged to be Smoker approaching a woman and the two then walking back to the car together.
This new information is of interest not just because of the circumstances – with the texts coming shortly after Linda was last seen, or because the suspect sent them to a close relative. Another element is that the brothers have a criminal history together – Justo and Victor Smoker were convicted for a series of robberies in 2006, with Victor serving nearly 10 years and Justo 12.
Victor Smoker has not been charged, however. Investigators had obtained multiple search warrants, which were sealed for 60 days to preserve the investigation:
Victor Smoker has not been charged. On Thursday, a woman who answered the phone number listed as his in the search warrant application said a word or two in Spanish and hung up.
Besides Justo Smoker’s smartphone, investigators obtained search warrants for his apartment, car and a rental storage unit.
The warrants were obtained on July 10, the day Smoker was arrested, and sealed for 60 days.
In asking that the warrants be sealed, Jones wrote that revealing their details would jeopardize the investigation.
No doubt Victor Smoker has been questioned about this, and investigators did not learn enough to charge him with any crime here.
But does Victor Smoker have information on Linda’s whereabouts? Maybe the messages were unrelated to Linda’s disappearance. But given the circumstances, it’s reasonable to suspect they had something to do with Linda.
Update: To emphasize, I’ll repeat that Victor Smoker has not been charged with anything in this case. One would expect as noted above that this has been looked into by investigators. The fact that Justo sent that amount of messages in the period right after it’s believed he kidnapped Linda is reasonably suspicious, as I noted in the final line of the previous paragraph. What I meant, in other words, is that if Justo had Linda in his custody in that time immediately after she disappeared, it would be odd for the two of them to be texting right then, over that number of messages, about their fantasy football teams or getting a pizza later or some other banal matter. But it doesn’t mean that the communication was in fact about Linda. Perhaps the messages were in fact about those types of everyday unrelated things. This report is eyebrow-raising information, but we can assume that since Victor has not been charged, that there wasn’t justification for doing so following whatever investigation was performed.