LANCASTER, Pa. - A man has admitted to kidnapping and killing an Amish woman in Lancaster County.
Justo Smoker pleaded guilty Friday morning to third-degree murder and other charges in the disappearance and death of 18-year-old Linda Stoltzfoos.
He was sentenced to 35.5-71 years in state prison as part of the plea deal, said Lancaster County District Attorney Heather Adams.
Smoker could also face an additional sentence of up to 17.5 years in prison, for violating terms of parole in a previous string of crimes, Adams said. Smoker had been paroled 16 months before he kidnapped and killed Stoltzfoos, after serving 12 years in prison for a string of armed robberies and burglaries, many on Amish victims, Adams said.
That means he could face up to 88 years in prison, "effectively a life sentence," the DA said during a news conference after the plea hearing.
Friday's plea agreement was contingent on Smoker providing authorities with information leading to the recovery of Stoltzfoos' body, which was found in April, Adams said. Both investigators and Linda's family agreed to pursue the plea deal, she said.
"Factually, this case was horrific and tragic," Adams said.
In an interview with investigators in April, Smoker admitted to kidnapping Stoltzfoos, strangling her and stabbing her in the neck, Adams said. He then led authorities to her body, which was found wrapped in a tarp and buried 42 inches in the ground.
She was found with her hands and feet tied together, mouth bound with duct tape, and injuries consistent with sexual assault, Adams said.
"Although Linda's recovery led us to additional painful details about the circumstances of her death, bringing her home also ensured a conviction here today, and a sentence that was specifically structured to practically ensure that Smoker will never be released," Adams said.
Stoltzfoos was reported missing after leaving a church service in Upper Leacock Township on June 21, 2020.
Smoker was arrested in July 2020 and charged in her kidnapping, then charged with homicide in December after authorities said they had enough evidence to believe Stoltzfoos was no longer alive and that Smoker was responsible for her death.
Authorities say Smoker was seen driving in the area on the day she went missing, and was following Amish females.
Investigators later found his DNA on some of Stoltzfoos' clothing, which was buried in a wooded area.