LANCASTER, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- The man charged with the kidnapping and killing of an Amish teenager last year in Lancaster County has admitted to the crime.
Thirty-five-year-old Justo Smoker pleaded guilty to third-degree murder, kidnapping, abuse of a corpse and other offenses on Friday morning in the death of 18-year-old Linda Stoltzfoos.
Smoker could serve up to 88 years in prison.
He was immediately sentenced to 35 to 71 years behind bars for Stoltzfoos' murder, and could be sentenced to more than 17 additional years for violating the terms of his parole.
The Lancaster County District Attorney's office said Smoker had been released on parole 16 months before the murder after pleading guilty to multiple armed robberies and burglaries, many against Amish victims.
Prosecutors say the sentence was "specifically structured in a way that practically ensures that Smoker would never be released."
"Factually, this case is horrific and tragic," said District Attorney Heather Adams. "Society will be protected from Smoker for what will likely amount to the rest of his natural life."
STOLTZFOOS' BODY RECOVERED AFTER PLEA DEAL
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 Smoker had worked.
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.
According to the D.A.'s office, Smoker agreed in April to disclose the location of Stoltzfoos' remains and enter a guilty plea to third-degree murder and other related charges.
In court, First Assistant Todd Brown said Smoker told investigators that "he approached Linda from behind and choked her with his arm under her neck and then with shoelaces until she was no longer breathing. He then stabbed Linda in the neck one time to ensure that she was dead."
Investigators say Stoltzfoos' body was found with her hands and feet bound; a rope connecting those bindings was looped around her neck; her sash and apron were covering her face; and her mouth was covered with duct tape.
LNP newspaper reported that Smoker apologized to Stoltzfoos' family in court, saying he had "robbed the family of time and memories." President Judge David Ashworth called Smoker a "predator of the worst kind."
The Associated Press contributed to this report