She was last seen on June 21, 2020, when she was returning home from after church to change into something else for a youth group meeting.
There have been multiple incidents over the last year that throw the spotlight on the plight of women's safety across the world. These incidents have shown that women belonging to different demographics get attacked indiscriminately. The disappearance and murder of one Amish teenager raise important questions once again.
Linda Stoltzfoos, 18, was missing for 10 months before her remains were found. She was returning from church and never seen again. She was last seen on June 21, 2020, when she was returning home from church to change into something else for a youth group meeting. The teen's remains were found in a rural area of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, the Lancaster County District Attorney's Office announced.
"The scene will be forensically processed, and the remains will then be released to the Lancaster County Coroner for official identification and determination of cause and manner of death," the press release read.
Her family confirmed that the remains were hers, and the coroner will be revealing the cause and manner of death, reports CBS21. One 35-year-old man, Justo Smoker, was arrested for her disappearance in July 2020, and he remains in custody till date. He was charged with felony kidnapping and misdemeanor false imprisonment, to begin with. In December 2020, he was charged with murder once investigators reviewed the evidence.
The 35-year-old became the kidnapping suspect when multiple witnesses reported seeing an Amish female in the passenger seat of a red car. They were able to describe Justo and his red Kia, according to authorities. Detectives also obtained a surveillance video that police said "depicts the abduction" of the 18-year-old woman on Beechdale Road. This was on her way home and the same vehicle was seen in the video there.
We're near Beechdale Road in Bird-in-Hand, Lancaster County where fire police are stationed currently. We're seeing multiple Amish people, buggies heading in the direction of Linda Stoltzfoos' house. @fox43— Grace Griffaton (@GraceGriffaton) April 21, 2021
MORE: https://t.co/3wbCNrLAwB pic.twitter.com/lVjGrIoDc9
The vehicle had a sticker that read "LCM" on the trunk. It had been seen parked on June 23 at a rural location in Ronks. When the investigators searched in that area, they found buried clothing belonging to the teenager, police said, as per People. The 35-year-old DNA was found on Linda's clothing, as per prosecutors.
Justo, who had initially pleaded not guilty to charges of felony kidnapping and misdemeanor false imprisonment, also pleaded not guilty for her murder. He is being held at Lancaster County Prison without bail.
Linda's uncle Mervin said that "he’s still in shock and never ready for news like this." Linda's community misses her dearly and is emotional after learning of her tragic end. "For the family, I feel terrible because they keep all this hope all this time that maybe she will show up, but then again it’s a closure," says Debbie Matteoda.
"Its sad. I hope that the family feels peace a little bit and the search is over and they know now what happened," added Krista Hanna.
The community, the police, and other agencies have searched for Linda for more than 15,000 man-hours since she went missing on June 21, 2020, from Lancaster. It has been a trying time for her family, who finally have some answers.
Cover image source: Lancaster County District Attorney's Office