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Press Release

Cherokee, N.C. Man Sentenced To Four Years For His Role in 2015 Murder At Smokemont Baptist Church

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of North Carolina

ASHEVILLE, N.C. – Johnathan Hill, 25, of Cherokee, N.C. was sentenced yesterday to 48 months in prison for his role in the 2015 murder of a male victim at Smokemont Baptist Church, announced R. Andrew Murray, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina.  U.S. District Judge Martin Reidinger also ordered Johnathan Hill to serve two years of supervised release upon completion of his prison term. 

John A. Strong, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Charlotte Division, Jared St. Clair, Acting Chief Ranger of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and Chief Doug Pheasant of the Cherokee Indian Police Department (CIPD) are making today’s announcement with U.S. Attorney Murray.

According to court filings, plea documents and the sentencing hearing, on March 29, 2015, CIPD received a 911 call alerting officers to a stabbing that had taken place inside Oconaluftee Baptist Church, commonly known as the Smokemont Baptist Church, located in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  Paramedics responding to the scene determined that the male victim had been stabbed and was deceased.  According to court records, Johnathan Hill, Forrest Dakota Hill, and the victim drove to the church together.  Over the course of their visit, Forrest Hill stabbed the victim with a knife during an unprovoked attack, causing the victim’s death.  Court records show that the victim had been stabbed at least 16 times in the chest, back, neck and elsewhere.

Following the stabbing, Johnathan Hill and Forrest Hill, who are not related, drove away from Smokemont Baptist Church. Along the way, Johnathan Hill tossed through the car window the handle of the knife he believed to have been used in the attack. After that, the two men drove to the home of Johnathan Hill’s relatives, where the two men burned the clothes they wore during the stabbing.

In December 2017, Johnathan Hill pleaded guilty to a charge of accessory after the fact to second degree murder. Forrest Hill was previously sentenced to more than 16 years in prison on second degree murder charges.

The investigation was handled by the FBI, NPS and CIPD. Assistant U.S. Attorney John Pritchard of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Asheville prosecuted the case.

Updated April 18, 2023

Violent Crime