United States Attorney Anne M. Tompkins
Western District of North Carolina
Swain CO. man sentenced to two consecutive life sentences
BRYSON CITY, N.C. – On Thursday, March 29, 2012, James Ernest Lespier, 33, of Cherokee and an enrolled member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, was sentenced 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 reservation.
U.S. Attorney Tompkins is joined in making today’s 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.
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.