A suspect behind bars and charged with the disappearance of Pennsylvania teen Linda Stoltzfoos is apparently related to the missing girl, although he claimed to have never met her.
Lancaster Online reports that Justo Smoker, who’s currently behind bars on kidnapping and false imprisonment charges in connection with Stoltzfoo’s disappearance, is a distant relative of the 18-year-old missing Amish teen. Loren Johns, a retired professor at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary, sent the outlet a chart outlining the familial relationship, although family members have not yet confirmed it.
According to investigators, Smoker kidnapped Stoltzfoos on June 21 as she walked home from church in Bird-in-Hand, Pennsylvania, on a farm on Stumptown Road. Authorities arrested Smoker after spotting his red Kia Rio on security footage at the 500 block of Beechdale Road, on June 21 at around 12:21 p.m.
Two witnesses told police that they saw a red Kia Rio where Stoltzfoo was last seen, off of Amish and Stumptown roads. One of the witnesses said they saw an Amish female in the front passenger side of the vehicle.
Although Stoltzfoo has not yet been found, investigators think she has been harmed.
Penn Live reports that a third witness, Isaac Esh, told authorities that he saw a red car driving east on Stumptown Road, which is the road that Stoltzfoos’ church is on, between 12:30 p.m. and 12:45 p.m. on June 21. Esh reportedly said that the driver made a stop at on point, turned the car around, and headed toward the direction of the church.
Command center for Linda Stoltzfoos search. Off airport road outside New Holland. Some two hundred volunteers are combing 4,000 acres of wooded, hilly terrain. @WGAL @PAStatePolice pic.twitter.com/qKDq0kukzO
— BarbaraBarrWGAL (@BarbaraBarrWGAL) July 17, 2020
Shortly after her disappearance, authorities began focusing on 3104 Harvest Drive, near the village of Ronks. The same Kia Rio was spotted there on June 23; someone called the police and reported a “suspicious vehicle” parked at the rear of a business, driven by a dark-skinned male.
The caller said the man got out of his car, looked into the windows of the business, walked around the building, then got back into his car.
The caller managed to take down the vehicle’s license plate information. The car in question belongs to Smoker, police said, but the vehicle had left by the time authorities arrived.
During their search, authorities found a bra and a pair of stockings buried in the ground near the business. Investigators said the items likely belonged to Stoltzfoos.
The FBI obtained cellphone records that placed Smoker’s phone around 3104 Harvest on June 21, between 2:32 p.m. and 3:35 p.m.
Investigators are asking anyone in the area to come forward if they remember seeing the Kia in the area. Some distinct features of the car include black trim, an “LCM” sticker on the trunk, a missing hubcap from the front passenger side and a rear spoiler.
Stoltzfoos’ trek from church to home was around nine-tenths of a mile. Investigators believe that she stayed on the road while walking home because of a creek between the church and her residence. They also believe Smoker had pulled his car off into a farm lane, then approached Stoltzfoos as she walked.
The search for Linda Stoltzfoos has resumed in Lancaster County. pic.twitter.com/m9rpQWzQxn
— Ryan Eldredge (@RyanEldredgeTV) July 17, 2020
Enhanced security footage reportedly shows two people walking across Beechdale Road during the time that Stoltzfoos would have been walking home. The camera caught the pair only briefly, around 34 seconds before they walked out of view. Minutes later, the camera caught a red Kia Rio pulling out and driving away.
Meanwhile, the search continues for Stoltzfoos. Around 200 volunteers gathered outside New Holland on Friday, according to WGAL reporter, Barbara Barr.
Anyone with any information on the teen’s whereabouts should contact the East Lampeter Township Police Department at 717 291-4676., or submit a tip online via Crimewatch.
Check back for updates.
For the latest true crime and justice news, subscribe to the ‘Crime Stories with Nancy Grace’ podcast. Here is our latest episode.
[Feature Photo: Linda Stoltzfoos/Police Handout]