The FBI has joined the ongoing search for a missing Amish teenager from Pennsylvania, offering a $10,000 reward for information on the whereabouts of the 18-year-old who disappeared three weeks ago after leaving church.
Linda Stoltzfoos, 18, never returned home after the church service in East Lampeter Township, Lancaster County, on June 21.
The federal agency is now offering a reward of up to $10,000 for information that would lead law enforcement to Stoltzfoos and the person or people responsible for her disappearance.
Linda Stoltzfoos, 18 (left), never returned home on June 21 after church in East Lampeter Township, Pennsylvania. The FBI has released a composite of Stoltzfoos as she might appear without her traditional Amish garb (right)
The FBI is offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to Stolzfoos and the person responsible for her disappearance
The FBI also has issued a visual composite of Stoltzfoos as she might appear without her traditional Amish bonnet on and with her hair down, and wearing street clothes instead of a dress and apron.
‘Our focus is on finding Linda,’ FBI spokesperson Carrie Adamowski told Daily Local News.
Lancaster County is the oldest Amish community in North America and one of the nation’s two largest Amish settlements.
Stolzfoos was last seen at around 12.30pm on June 21 on a farm on Stumptown Road, in the community known as Bird-In-Hand, wearing a tan dress with a white apron, a white cape and a black head covering.
Members of the Amish community in Lancaster County searched for the missing woman last month
A day after her disappearance, teams of volunteers with dogs and horses set out to try and find her
‘There’s no reason to believe that she wanted to leave,’ Lt Matt Hess, of the East Lampeter Township Police Department, said after her disappearance.
‘She didn’t indicate to anyone that she wanted to go take a trip, so it’s very out of character for Linda to do this.
‘So, it changed the circumstances in the sense that there was no pre-planned events or reasons for her to not come back home.’
Hess noted in an interview with NBC10 that while it is not unheard of that Amish teenagers would want to run away to ‘see the world,’ there is no indication that Stolfzfoos had ever expressed interest in leaving the community.
‘We want Linda to know that if she is watching or listening to this, she is not in any trouble,’ Hess said. ‘We are only concerned for her welfare.’
Members of the community began searching for Stoltzfoos the following Monday morning and continued into the evening.
Hundreds of volunteers showed up to search for the missing young woman, according to a Facebook page that details search efforts and includes photos and videos from the scene.
For hours, volunteers scoured fields and streams for Stoltzfoos. In the evening, 15 horses with riders were dispatched to help search for Stoltzfoos.
Members of the tight-knight religious community held a vigil on Wednesday to pray for Stolfzfoos’ return.
Bird-in-Hand is known for its large Amish population, and tourists come to visit the Amish Village heritage museum.
Pennsylvania and Ohio have the highest concentration of Amish communities, with 50 Amish groups in each state.
Fields, hedgerows and bushes were searched by volunteers trying to locate Linda Stoltzfoos
The Pennsylvania Amish are known to be private people who believe that God has called them to a simple life of faith, discipline, dedication and humility.
Shunning technology, they believe that the Amish religion should be practiced, not displayed, and translated into daily living rather than focused on tangible symbols or complicated religious rituals.
Stoltzfoos’ disappearance came a month after a 21-year-old US Air Force airman was arrested for allegedly killing Mennonite Sunday school teacher Sasha Krause, 27, in Arizona.
Both the Amish and Mennonites belong to the Anabaptist denomination of Christianity and dress in similar garb, but unlike the Amish, the Mennonites allow the use of some modern technological advances in their daily lives.
Stolzfoos is described as a white female with blue eyes and brown hair, standing at 5 feet 10 inches tall and weighing 125lbs.
Anyone with information on her whereabouts, or the circumstances of her disappearance is being asked to call 1-800-CALL-FBI.