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Press Release

Husband Charged With Wife's 2013 Murder In Indian Country Appears in Federal Court

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

ASHEVILLE, N.C. – A Swain County man is facing a federal charge for allegedly killing his wife in 2013, announced Dena J. King U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina.

Ernest D. Pheasant, Sr., 46, an enrolled member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI), is charged with one count of first-degree murder in Indian Country. Pheasant made his initial court appearance on Monday, April 8, 2024, before U.S. Magistrate Judge W. Carleton Metcalf.

According to allegations in the indictment, on December 29, 2013, Pheasant killed his spouse, Marie Walkingstick Pheasant, and did so willfully, deliberately, maliciously, and with premeditation. The indictment alleges that the murder occurred on the Qualla Boundary within Indian Country.

Pheasant remains in federal custody. His arraignment and detention hearings are scheduled for Wednesday, April 10, 2024, at 11:25 a.m., in Asheville.

The defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law. 

The charges arose from an investigation by the FBI in North Carolina, the Missing and Murdered Unit of the Bureau of Indian Affairs' Office of Justice Services, the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation, the North Carolina Highway Patrol, the Cherokee Indian Police Department, and the EBCI Office of the Tribal Prosecutor. 

Assistant United States Attorney Alex M. Scott of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Asheville is prosecuting the case.

The Department of Justice and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of North Carolina continue to prioritize the investigation and prosecution of cases involving Missing or Murdered Indigenous Persons (MMIP) and bring justice to victims and their families. For more information about the Justice Department’s efforts to address the MMIP crisis, please visit the MMIP section of the Tribal Safety and Justice website at:


Updated April 9, 2024

Indian Country Law and Justice
Violent Crime