PA Amish woman's disappearance, murder court hearing delayed: reports

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A Pennsylvania court hearing in the case involving the man charged with murdering a local Amish woman who has been presumed dead after disappearing more than six months ago has been delayed, according to a recent report.

Justo Smoker’s preliminary hearing, which was set for Wednesday, was canceled and had not been rescheduled as of that day, LancasterOnline.com reported.  

The purpose of the hearing was reportedly for Lancaster law enforcement to lay out the evidence they’ve uncovered so far to show that the suspect likely committed the crimes for which he was charged. It was not clear why the hearing had been postponed.

Justo Smoker, 34, was arrested Friday and charged with felony kidnapping and misdemeanor false imprisonment in the search for 18-year-old Linda Stoltzfoos. (Lancaster County District Attorney/East Lampeter Township PD)

Stoltzfoos, 18, was last seen walking from a religious service in Bird-in-Hand in Lancaster County at approximately 12:40 p.m. on June 21, according to authorities and a Facebook page dedicated to her disappearance. She was supposed to go to a meeting with her youth group but never made it, police said. Stoltzfoos left no signs of a plan or intention to run away. 

Smoker was arrested July 10 and was charged with felony kidnapping and misdemeanor false imprisonment, police said at the time. 

Police had received information connecting his distinct red-orange Kia Rio to the area where Stoltzfoos was last seen on the day of her suspected abduction, officials said.

Investigators learned Smoker’s car had been seen parked in a rural part of nearby Ronks, where witnesses said they saw someone who looked like Stoltzfoos in the passenger seat of the vehicle.

The same night police arrested Smoker, they searched the land and found intimate clothing that appeared to have belonged to the teen buried in a wooded area, police said.

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Months later, the Lancaster District Attorney’s Office announced on Dec. 22 it had charged Smoker with her murder even though Stoltzfoos' remains had not been located.

Justo Smoker’s vehicle, a Kia Rio sedan with a "distinct spoiler" and "LCM" sticker, was seen in the area the day that Linda Stoltzfoos was abducted. (Lancaster County District Attorney’s Office)

"Given the circumstances of Linda’s disappearance; specifically, that she was forcefully abducted by a stranger, we always feared she suffered a tragic fate," said Lancaster County District Attorney Heather Adams in a press release announcing the charge. "After careful consideration of all of the facts uncovered by the investigation as a whole, we are now in a position – legally – to charge Smoker with murder."

The DA’s office said police received three separate reports on the evening of June 20 – the day before Stoltzfoos’ disappearance – about someone matching Smoker’s description "following Amish females near the abduction site," the release states.

Smoker’s cellphone pinged in the area of the reported suspicious activity that night and further shows Smoker also traveled to the area where Stoltzfoos’ stockings and bra were later discovered around the time that witnesses reported seeing them there, the office said. He allegedly returned to the area "several times" after that.

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Police also found Smoker had bought alcohol and "multiple pairs of disposable cleaning gloves" just hours before the reported stalking incidents and Stoltzfoos’ subsequent abduction, the office said. 

Smoker's DNA was later discovered on one of Stoltzfoos’ undergarments, the release states.

"Evidence also demonstrates that Smoker discarded items," the office said, "including: the recently purchased gloves and multiple shoe and boot laces, shoes he wore on June 21, and car floor mats, which commonly contain trace evidence; those items were never found in police searches."

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