Man Pleads Guilty and Apologizes for Horrific Murder of Amish Teen Linda Stoltzfoos
“Smoker may serve up to 88.5 years of incarceration as a result of the agreement and sentence imposed today. This is effectively a life sentence for Smoker," DA Heather Adams said during Friday's sentencing.
The Pennsylvania man who abducted and killed Amish teenager Linda Stoltzfoos pleaded guilty to third-degree murder and said “I’m sorry” as he was handed a sentence to 35.5 years to 71 years behind bars, the District Attorney’s office announced on Friday.
Justo Smoker, 35, entered pleas of guilty to kidnapping, abuse of a corpse, tampering with evidence, and possession of an instrument of crime. In April, he entered a plea agreement and told investigators where the 18-year-old's remains were located, Lancaster County District Attorney Heather Adams said.
Smoker also faces an additional sentence of up to 17.5 years for violating the terms of his parole. Smoker had been serving another prison sentence for a string of armed robberies and burglaries and had been paroled only 16 months before committing this “horrific crime,” Adams said.
“Smoker may serve up to 88.5 years of incarceration as a result of the agreement and sentence imposed today. This is effectively a life sentence for Smoker," Adams said.
During Friday’s sentencing, Judge David Ashford described Smoker's crimes as “the height of depravity,” and “cowardly and despicable,” WGAL reported.
Smoker spoke ahead of his sentencing, however, Stoltzfoos’ parents were not in the courtroom. A family spokesperson said it was too difficult for them, WGAL reported.
”I know Linda was a light," Smoker said, WGAL reported. "Because of me, the world is dimmer. All I can say is I'm sorry.”
Judge Ashford said to the court: ”Justo Smoker should never be given the chance again to inflict pain and carnage on the community."
The DA told the courtroom that from the beginning of the case they focused on three goals to secure justice for Stoltzfoos, the family, and the community.
“To bring Linda home so she will be granted the dignity and respect that she so richly deserved. Providing her family with some measure of closure by affording them the opportunity for a proper burial. Finally, to secure a murder conviction and to ensure the protection of society,” Adams announced.
On June 18, 2020, Stoltzfoos disappeared from Lancaster County. She was last seen walking home from church in the Bird-in-Hand area near her home to change into something else for a youth group meeting. Stoltzfoos was strangled and stabbed in the neck, according to the Lancaster County coroner’s office, NBC News previously reported.
Dental records were used to positively identify Stoltzfoos’ body. The cause of death was asphyxia from strangulation, along with suffocation and the stab wound was a contributing factor in her death, according to the medical examiner’s office, NBC News previously reported.
Stoltzfoos' remains were found in a shallow grave along railroad tracks behind a business where Smoker had worked, according to the news outlet.
Her body was found wrapped in a tarp with her dress, bonnet, and shoes still on. Authorities believe the body had been moved from where it was initially buried, a wooded area where police recovered the girl's bra and stockings. DNA found on the clothing was confirmed to be Smoker’s, People reported.
In July, Smoker, 35, was arrested on charges of felony kidnapping and misdemeanor false imprisonment in connection with the case. In December he was charged with murder after investigators determined Stoltzfoos was likely deceased. Her remains were found in April, Inside Edition previously reported.
Members of the Amish community, along with police and FBI, and multiple law enforcement agencies started the search for Stoltzfoos immediately after she vanished. According to the DA, a total of 15,000 man-hours were spent searching for the young woman’s remains.
"It was a total of 2,334 searchers that covered 10,500 acres utilizing multiple resources drones, canines, horses, ATV submarines, helicopters, and ground-penetrating radar," Adams said.
At the press conference, she told the courtroom that the video footage led to "the break in the case."
“Investigators digitally enhanced video footage from a camera located approximately 334 yards from where Stolz was kidnapped,” Adams said during the press conference. “After the video was enhanced the footage showed a very pixilated but discernible recording of the kidnapping itself which was truly remarkable in of itself.”
“Today through this negotiated plea agreement and sentence we successfully achieved each of these goals by bringing Linda home and securing a conviction and imposing the life sentence today,” Adams said. “There is so simply no question justice has been served.”
The family spokesperson described Stoltzfoos as a "caring, loving, and timid young lady with a big heart for children,” and said “the family and the community will never be the same,” WGAL reported.
Trending on Inside Edition
These Are the 10 Victims of the Buffalo Supermarket ShootingCrime
Woman Who Passed Out While Driving Reunited With Passersby Who Saved Her Through Police Department GiftsHuman Interest
'Exorcism' Death of 3-Year-Old Girl Leads to Arrest of Mother, Grandfather and UncleCrime
Indiana State Police Continue Investigation of Unidentified Boy Found Dead Inside SuitcaseCrime
Witness Says Accused Buffalo Gunman Came to Supermarket Day Before Massacre: 'Something Was Wrong With Him'Crime