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Coroner Says Buried Amish Teen Linda Stoltzfoos Had Been Strangled, Stabbed

LANCASTER, Pa. (CBS/AP) - A young Amish woman whose remains were found this week, 10 months after her disappearance, was strangled and stabbed in the neck, a coroner ruled Friday. The Lancaster County coroner used dental records to positively identify the body of 18-year-old Linda Stoltzfoos.

The cause of death was asphyxia from strangulation, along with suffocation, the coroner, Dr. Stephen Diamantoni, said following an autopsy Friday. He said the stab wound was a contributing factor in her death.

Stoltzfoos was last seen walking home from church in the Bird-in-Hand area on June 21, 2020. Her remains were found in a grave along railroad tracks behind a business where the man charged in her death had worked.

Justo Smoker, 35, of Paradise, was charged with homicide in December and is awaiting trial. Smoker was initially arrested in August, and also faces charges of kidnapping and false imprisonment. He has pleaded not guilty.

Authorities have declined to say what exactly led them to the grave, or whether Smoker had provided the information as part of a deal with prosecutors. Stoltzfoos' body was found in the small town of Gap along Route 41, in an area of brush on railroad property behind a business where Smoker had been employed.

Authorities have said they believe Smoker killed Stoltzfoos within a few hours of kidnapping her, buried her in one location where her stockings and bra had been found, and then moved her several days later to the grave discovered Wednesday.

Stoltzfoos' uncle is still in shock after learning police discovered his niece's decaying body in a shallow grave.

"There was just anguish at first, but then it really starts bringing closure," said Mervin Fisher, Stoltzfoos' uncle.

He said Linda was the eldest sibling in a large family.

(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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