Mercy triumphs over unspeakable evil in true story about tragic kidnap, murder of 18-year-old Amish woman

‘Beechdale Road’ co-authors release untold “story of redemption” in time for anniversary of devastating tragedy

LANCASTER, Penn. — The tragic kidnapping and murder of an 18-year-old Amish woman is the focus of a “powerful” new book with a surprising twist. Click here to watch a clip of the co-authors. 

Linda Stoltzfoos was walking home from church in rural Lancaster County, Penn., on June 21, 2020.

She never made it.

Following a massive FBI search operation that involved submarines, ground-penetrating radar, prayer rallies  and hundreds of volunteers, one of Linda’s distant neighbors — 34-year-old Justo Smoker — was arrested for her abduction and murder.

Smoker was later sentenced to more than 70 years in prison.

Beechdale Road: Where Mercy Is More Powerful Than Murder” — co-authored by Tim Rogers and Megan Shertzer, two of Smoker’s relatives — tells the remarkable story of how the Amish community showered forgiveness and kindness on Smoker’s family in the wake of the devastating tragedy.

Instead of displaying anger and malice, the shattered Amish community serenaded Smoker’s family with religious songs, took them homegrown cucumbers, and showed “unconditional kindness,” the authors say.

‘Undeserved Mercy’

“We hope (readers) experience what it’s like when undeserved mercy confronts undeniable evil, when kindness upends condemnation, when heaven engages hell,” they write in the just-released book.

Rogers and Shertzer — Smoker’s brother-in-law and niece — said they wrote the book as a way to wrestle with their own anger and guilt.

“We wanted to show the kindness of God to our world, and to share how we experienced it through this trauma,” they said. “We truly believe there’s another way to handle the pain we all experience, a way of kindness that diffuses all guilt.”

A portion of the sales of Beechdale Road will support the education of Amish children in Lancaster County.


MEDIA: For more information and to arrange an interview, contact:

Gregg Wooding, 972-567-7660 / [email protected] 

About the Authors

Megan Shertzer, MA, works as an Adult Advocate at The Factory Ministries in Paradise, Pennsylvania. She is recently married to her husband Tanner, and enjoys running, traveling, reading, and spending time with family and friends. Megan is Justo’s niece. 

Tim Rogers, ThM, DMin, has served as Lead Pastor at Grace Point Church of Paradise, Pennsylvania for more than twenty years. He is active in various community roles. He has been married to Jen for more than twenty-five years, and they have three children and one dog. Tim enjoys cycling, coaching basketball, reading, & traveling with his family. Tim is Justo’s brother-in-law.


Chip Ingram, founder and CEO of Living on the Edge Ministries, said: “In a world of violence topping the daily headlines, this is a different story — it’s a story of hope and healing in the midst of unimaginable tragedy.”

Dr. Thomas L. Kiedis, president of Lancaster Bible College, described Beechdale Road as “grace in all its God-given complexity and beauty.”

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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Religion News Service or Religion News Foundation.

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