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News Manhunt for Swain murder suspect ends in suicide

In a manhunt that involved more than a dozen law enforcement agencies from three states, a Swain County man who shot and killed a woman and injured her sister on New Year’s Eve died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound after being tracked down later that night in Georgia.

John Fred Stanley, 42, of Bryson City, is alleged to have shot and killed his estranged wife, Lora Lee Stanley, 43, outside the Quality Inn in Cherokee, N.C., on Friday morning. The hotel was full of guests, many of whom planned to spend the holiday at Harrah's Cherokee Casino, a popular New Year's Eve destination. After the shooting, the hotel had to be closed for much of the day while agents investigated the murder scene.

Mrs. Stanley's sister, Lesia Anne Smith, 45, also suffered injuries related to the shooting and was taken to Mission Hospital in Asheville, N.C.. As of Tuesday, Smith was still being treated in the hospital but was reported to be in stable condition.

According to Chief Ben Reed of the Cherokee Indian Police, the shooting was a case of domestic violence.

Stanley fled the scene after the shooting but was later stopped in Dalton, Ga., where he shot himself after firing at law enforcement officers who were trying to apprehend him. Stanley was airlifted to a local hospital but later died of his injuries.

Though the murder occurred on the land trust of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation took the lead in the case as it involved only individuals who were not members of the tribe. According to an official at the North Carolina Department of Justice, the following agencies also assisted in the investigation: Cherokee Indian Police Department, Swain County Sheriff’s Office, Jackson County Sheriff’s Office, Sylva Police Department, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, Tennessee Highway Patrol, McMinn County Sheriff’s Office (Tenn.), Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Georgia State Patrol, Whitfield County Sheriff’s Office (Ga.), and Erlanger Hospital Police Department (Tenn.).

The official added that the SBI is continuing to investigate the case.


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