Man Pleads Guilty to Stabbing and Strangling Murder of Amish Teen Linda Stoltzfoos
"I know Linda was a light," Justo Smoker said before his sentencing. "Because of me, the world is dimmer"
The man accused of killing Amish teenager Linda Stoltzfoos today pleaded guilty to third-degree murder and was sentenced to 35 to 71 years behind Pennsylvania prison bars.
PEOPLE confirms Justo Smoker, 35, formally entered the guilty plea Friday.
Smoker also entered guilty pleas to kidnapping, abuse of a corpse, tampering with evidence, and possession of an instrument of crime charges.
In addition to his sentence for those crimes, Smoker learned he could face an additional 17.5 years for a parole violation. That determination will be made soon by the parole board, PEOPLE learns.
Stoltzfoos, 18, disappeared on June 21, 2020, when she was last seen heading home after church to change into something else for a youth group meeting. Her remains were found in April.
According to prosecutors, who addressed the press earlier today, a plea deal was struck with Smoker in order to find Stoltzfoos' body — and bring her grieving family closure.
During the sentencing, Judge David Ashford described Smoker's crimes as depraved, cowardly and despicable, reports WGAL.
Smoker also spoke ahead of his sentencing, which Stoltzfoos' parents did not attend.
"I know Linda was a light," Smoker said, according to WGAL. "Because of me, the world is dimmer. All I can say is I'm sorry."
Smoker was arrested last July on charges of felony kidnapping and misdemeanor false imprisonment in connection with Stoltzfoos' disappearance.
He was officially charged with murder in December, after investigators reviewed all of the evidence gathered and made the determination that Stoltzfoos was likely dead.
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The teen's body was found wrapped in a tarp and buried in a shallow grave with her dress, bonnet and shoes. 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.
Medical examiners determined Stoltzfoos died from asphyxia due to strangulation and suffocation, with a knife wound to the neck serving as a contributing factor.