The 18-year-old's family confirmed the remains found by police belonged to the missing teen

By Gabrielle Chung
April 22, 2021 12:10 AM
Advertisement
Linda Stoltzfoos
Linda Stoltzfoos
| Credit: East Lampeter Township Police

The search for missing Amish teenager Linda Stoltzfoos — who vanished 10 months ago while on her way back home from church — has come to a tragic end.

Human remains were discovered in a rural area of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, in a search for the 18-year-old, the Lancaster County District Attorney's Office announced on Wednesday.

The scene is being forensically processed and the remains will be released to the Lancaster County Coroner for determination of cause and manner of death, officials said.

Though authorities have yet to make an official identification, Stolzfoos' family confirmed to CBS 21 that the human remains discovered by police do belong to the missing teen.

According to the district attorney's office, authorities have spent more than 15,000 man-hours searching for Stoltzfoos since June 21, 2020, when she was last seen heading home after church to change into something else for a youth group meeting.

Justo Smoker, 35, was arrested in July on charges of felony kidnapping and misdemeanor false imprisonment in connection with Stoltzfoos' disappearance.

Justo Smoker
Justo Smoker
| Credit: Lancaster County District Attorney's Office

He was charged with murder in December after investigators reviewed all of the evidence gathered and made the determination that Stoltzfoos was likely dead.

Smoker first became a kidnapping suspect for police after multiple witnesses in the area reported seeing an Amish female in the passenger seat of a red car. The descriptions of the driver and vehicle were consistent with Smoker and his red Kia, according to authorities.

As detectives investigated further, they obtained surveillance video that police said "depicts the abduction" of Stoltzfoos on Beechdale Road, which would have been part of her walk home, and they matched the red Kia Rio vehicle seen in the video to the suspect.

Want to keep up with the latest crime coverage? Sign up for PEOPLE's free True Crime newsletter for breaking crime news, ongoing trial coverage and details of intriguing unsolved cases.

After learning that the vehicle with a distinct "LCM" sticker on the trunk had been seen parked June 23 at a rural location in Ronks, investigators searched the area and located buried clothing belonging to Stoltzfoos, police said.

Smoker's DNA was detected on Stoltzfoos' clothing, according to prosecutors.

In March, Smoker — who had previously pleaded not guilty to charges of felony kidnapping and misdemeanor false imprisonment stemming from Stoltzfoos' disappearance — pleaded not guilty to homicide, local newspaper LNP reported.

An attorney for Smoker could not be immediately reached by PEOPLE for comment.

Smoker is currently being held at Lancaster County Prison without bail.