North Carolina man found guilty of murder in federal trial

Asheville, North Carolina (AP) June 2011

A member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians has been found guilty in federal court of murder in the death of a woman who was shot on the reservation last year.

Federal officials say 33-year-old James Ernest Lespier of Cherokee was found guilty of first-degree murder in the death of Erien Amanda Smith, who was killed May 18, 2010. The verdict was returned after an eight-day trial in Asheville.

Lespier also was found guilty of one count of use of and carrying a firearm in relation to a crime of violence.

The Asheville Citizen-Times reported that Smith was 22 and from Sylva and not a member of the tribe.

A sentencing date has not been set for Lespier, who faces the maximum penalty of life in prison.