BRYSON CITY – James Ernest Lespier, 33, an EBCI tribal member from Cherokee, was sentenced on Thursday, March 29 to serve two consecutive life sentences by U.S. District Judge Martin Reidinger, announced Anne M. Tompkins, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina. In June 2011, a federal jury convicted Lespier with fatally shooting his girlfriend, Erien Amanda “Mandy” Smith, on the Cherokee Indian reservation.
According to court documents and court proceedings, on May 18, 2010, in the early morning hours, Lespier contacted the Cherokee Indian Police Department, identified himself, and advised that “Mandy is dead.” Officers responded to the residence in Cherokee, where Lespier was waiting outside with blood stains on his clothes. The victim was lying deceased on the floor of the residence, covered in blood.
Lespier claimed that he and the victim had argued over prescription medication and that she had pulled a gun from an unknown location and began firing. Lespier claimed that he struggled with the victim and that she shot herself. The medical examiner concluded that the cause of death was a gunshot wound to the back of the head. The medical examiner also concluded, and evidence presented at trial supported, that the description of events provided by the defendant was not consistent with the wounds which killed the victim.
A superseding indictment charged Lespier in December 2010 with one count of first degree murder and one count of use of and carrying a firearm in relation to a crime of violence. In June 2010, a federal jury returned the guilty verdict on both counts following an eight-day trial.
Lespier, who has been in local federal custody since his arrest in May 2010, will be transferred into custody of the Federal Bureau of Prisons upon designation of a federal facility. Federal sentences are served without the possibility of parole.
The investigation was handled by the FBI and the Cherokee Indian Police Department. The prosecution of the case was handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Don Gast of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Asheville. U.S. Attorney Tompkins is joined in making Thursday’s sentencing announcement by Chris Briese, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Charlotte Division, and Ben Reed, Chief of the Cherokee Indian Police Department.
In other sentencing news from the U.S. Attorney’s office, Yulonda Renee Wolfe, 39, an EBCI tribal member from Cherokee, was sentenced on Wednesday, March 28 to 49 months in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release. She pleaded guilty in July 2011 to one count of assault with a dangerous weapon inflicting serious injury.
Jacob Dewayne Wolfe, 23, an EBCI tribal member from Cherokee, was also sentenced on March 28. He received 30 months in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release after having pleaded guilty in May 2011 to possession of a firearm by a prohibited person.
– U.S. Attorney’s Office