Pa. Teen Who Vanished Weeks Ago Walking Home from Church Was 'Harmed,' and Suspect Is Arrested
Police say they recovered buried articles of clothing they believe belong to missing 18-year-old Linda Stoltzfoos
The last time anyone saw 18-year-old Linda Stoltzfoos, on June 21, she was barefoot and carrying her shoes as she began to walk home after church on a rural Pennsylvania farm to change into something else for a youth group meeting.
On Friday police arrested 34-year-old Justo Smoker on charges of felony kidnapping and misdemeanor false imprisonment in connection with her disappearance.
The arrest comes after police say they found buried articles of clothing believed to belong to the missing teen in a wooded area where a car connected to the suspect was seen two day after Stoltzfoos disappeared.
While the search for the young women continues, prosecutors now say they believe Stoltzfoos, who was Amish, was "harmed following her abduction," reports the Associated Press.
Multiple witnesses reported seeing an Amish female in the passenger seat of a red/orange vehicle seen in the Gap area on the afternoon that Stoltzfoos went missing, according to East Lampeter Township Police. But police found "nothing indicating Stoltzfoos was unhappy and wanted to leave" her Amish community, according to a news release.
As they investigated further, authorities obtained surveillance video that police say "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.
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, authorities searched the area Friday and located the buried clothing, police said.
Smoker was arraigned Saturday following his arrest. A judge denied bond due to "the nature of the charges and the ongoing investigation" as requested by prosecutors, the A.P. reports.
He has not entered a plea, and an attorney who might speak on his behalf was not identified.
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According to the criminal complaint in the case, the missing teen's friend, Lillian Ebersole, told police that the two young women had been washing dishes together after a June 21 church service, which concluded around noon at a farm along Stumptown Road, when Stoltzfoos said she wanted to go home and change from her formal church clothes into a different outfit for a later youth group meeting, reports LancasterOnline.
Ebersole subsequently watched a barefoot Stoltzfoos walk away.
The missing woman's parents believed she had gone to the youth group event, while members of the youth group thought she was at home, causing hours to pass before her father called police to report his daughter missing when she didn't return.
"I think the emotions are very high," Allen Miller, a Lancaster County neighbor, said at a prayer vigil on Sunday, reports WPMT. "Certainly light has been shed on this situation, but we are going to continue to pray for more, and that we find Linda."