“This is a tragic situation, and our department will utilize all available resources to solve this crime,” said Police Chief Ben Reed. “This is a cowardly act, and the person responsible will be brought to justice. Please pray for all of the people involved.”
The Cherokee Tribal Dispatch received a call at 9:58 p.m. from a local resident reporting shots being fired. Police arrived to find Barbara Preidet, 76, who was visiting from Indiana, shot in the parking lot of the Fairfield Inn. Preidet died at the scene.
The assailant was thought to have fled toward a light blue or gray full size truck, possibly a Ford or Dodge extended cab, according to witnesses. The truck was last seen leaving the hotel’s parking lot traveling north on U.S. 19 toward Maggie Valley.
The event came as a surprise, given Western North Carolina’s low violent crime rate.
“I am shocked by the events which occurred last night in Cherokee,” said Principal Chief Michell Hicks. “Senseless violence is unacceptable in any community, and I am committed to supporting the Cherokee Indian Police Department in locating the suspect in this crime and bringing them to justice. I also want to express my heartfelt sympathy to the family of the victim.”
The Cherokee Indian Police and the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation are investigating the incident. Anyone who may have been in the area or who has information to contact Detective Sean Birchfield at 828.269.6601 or Cherokee Tribal Dispatch at 828.497.4131.
The Cherokee Police Department is offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction.