Justo Smoker, the man accused of murdering Amish teenager Linda Stoltzfoos, has pleaded guilty as part of a plea deal with prosecutors.
The agreement was reached on April 21, and as part of the deal Smoker drew a detailed map guiding police to the spot where he had buried the 18-year-old’s body.
Even with the map, cops were unable to pinpoint the murdered girl’s body, which was buried some 42” deep on waste ground near railway tracks in the town of Gap, Pennsylvania.
Lancaster County District attorney Heather Adams told a press conference that Linda had died from strangulation, and she had also been stabbed. Her body was clothed when it was found – her hands and feet had been tied and her sash and apron wrapped tightly around her face.
A post-mortem revealed that Linda had been raped before her death.
She had last been seen walking home from church in the Bird-in-Hand area on June 21, 2020.
Police pointed out that Linda, being Amish, had “no digital footprint” which made tracking her more difficult.
Girl, 18, strangled and stabbed before body wrapped and dumped in shallow grave
Smoker was tracked down because police obtained CCTV evidence from a local homeowner. The footage was believed lost at first, but was recovered by forensic experts.
It showed Smoker’s red Kia apparently following Linda as she walked home.
Several other young Amish women reported having been followed by a similar car in the days leading up to Linda’s murder.
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DNA samples from Smoker matched DNA samples found on Linda’s bra and stockings, which had been found near his home shortly after the murder.
Even with the evidence, police feared they might never have located Linda’ body without the plea deal.
Addressing criticism of the deal, DA Adams said the deal was “was thought about and analysed closely” but, she stressed, prosecutors hadn’t “done a deal with the devil” and had done their best for Linda’s family.
Linda’s family buried her at a cemetery just a few miles from their home on April 26.
DA Adams said she was confident Smoker, who had been released from jail in 2019 after serving 12 years for armed robbery, would “never be released”.
Pennsylvania state governor Tom Wolf removed the option of the death penalty in 2015.
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