Lancaster County, Pennsylvania: Yesterday, Ten months to the day from when 18-year-old Linda Stoltzfoos was last seen the Lancaster County District Attorney's Office announced that the Federal Bureau of Investigations, Pennsylvania State Police and the East Lampeter Township Police were on scene forensically processing a location where human remains had been found.
"While the Coroner's Office has not yet made a positive forensic identification, based on all the information currently available to us, we strongly believe- and we are comfortable saying- that the remains are those of 18-year-old Linda Stoltzfoos," the update from the Lancaster County District Attorney's website reads.
Family members have reportedly also confirmed the identity of the remains, found wearing "a dress, bonnet and shoes consistent with clothing worn by Linda on the day of her disappearance."
"All of us have been hoping for closure," Melvin Fisher, Stoltzfoos' uncle said. "It's not the news we wanted, but progress is moving forward to bring Linda to rest."
An autopsy is scheduled for Friday to confirm identity and establish cause of death.
The location of the grave had been searched previously and has been described as being "not easily accessible" in an updated statement from the Lancaster County District Attorney's Office.
The remains were located on railroad property behind a business where Justo Smoker had previously been employed. "Smoker's place of employment was not a location of significant interest as, according to cellphone records, there was no indication that Smoker travelled to his place of employment on the day of the kidnapping."
Instead, investigators believe that Smoker, who was initially charged with kidnapping, but was charged with murder back in December, killed her within hours of her disappearance and initially hid her body behind a business in the Ronks where Linda's stockings and bra were previously found.
Investigators believe that several days later Smoker moved her body to the location behind his place of employment.
"There is simply no room for criticism of law enforcements efforts in this case," District Attorney Heather L. Adams stated in regard to the vast array of resources utilized in the recovery efforts over the previous ten months. The recovery of her remains is the result of over 2,338 searchers spending more than 15,000 man-hours utilizing drones, K-9s, horses, ATVS, ground penetrating radar and even submarines to find her.
“Since charging this case we have maintained two goals: bringing Linda home to her family and securing a murder conviction against Smoker," Adams said during a press conference earlier today. "While we charged the crime of homicide in December, I have no doubt that for Linda’s family, her death only became a reality upon the news of her body being recovered. We ask that the family be given privacy during this difficult time. Our hearts go out to the family as they process this news, their grief, and the many emotions that it will bring."