Lengthy sentence for murder at historic Eastern Cherokee church

The Smokemont Baptist Church in North Carolina. Photo by joelmutate

A 23-year-old man was sentenced to more than 16 years in prison for a fatal stabbing at a historic church near the reservation of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in North Carolina.

Forest Dakota Hill, 23, pleaded guilty to a charge of second degree murder. He admitted that he repeatedly stabbed Tyler Britton Gaddis, 25, and left him to die at the Smokemont Baptist Church in March 2015.

“It takes a depraved person to kill another human being, but an evil one to carry out the murder inside a religious institution founded upon the belief in the sanctity of human life,” U.S. Attorney Rose Jill Westmoreland said in a press release. “While we can never replace their loved one, we hope that Hill’s lengthy prison term will bring closure to the victim’s family and friends.”

The Eastern Cherokee police department helped investigate the crime. Tribal officers and emergency workers were the first to arrive on the scene on March 29, 2015, according to a factual basis that was filed in court.

According to The Asheville Citizen-Times, Gaddis was picked up from a home on the reservation before he was taken to the church and stabbed. Hill later burned the clothes he was wearing at the time and dumped them at another place on the reservation, the paper reported, citing court documents.

The Smokemont Baptist Church, also known as the Oconaluftee Baptist Church or the Luftee Baptist Church, lies within the boundaries of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, a "place within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States," according to the indictment against Hill. The structure was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976.

Read More on the Story:
Man sentenced for 2015 murder in Smokies church (The Asheville Citizen-Times 8/17)
Man to serve 16 years for stabbing at church on reservation (AP 8/17)
Man fatally stabbed 16 times inside NC church, Easley man gets 16 years (WSPA 8/16)

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