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No charges filed in Lambert Wilson death

Lambert Wilson died Oct. 20, 2022, at El Camino Motel in Cherokee. Lambert Wilson died Oct. 20, 2022, at El Camino Motel in Cherokee. Holly Kays photo

No criminal charges will be brought against a South Carolina resident who shot and killed Lambert Wilson last fall, according to District Attorney Ashley Hornsby Welch.

Law enforcement officers arrived in the evening hours of Oct. 20, 2022, to find the 68-year-old Swain County native dead on the sidewalk of El Camino Hotel in Cherokee.

Welch said the investigation showed that Leo Pruess, 60, acted in self defense after Wilson brandished a handgun.

The shooting occurred after an argument in the motel involving Lambert, Pruess and Pruess' wife.

“Although we will never know exactly what occurred that night, after meeting numerous times with the district attorney and Cherokee Indian Police, we understand why the decision not to charge was reached,” Lambert’s family members said in a prepared statement.

“We have suffered a tremendous loss that the family and this community will never recover from,” the family stated.

Welch praised Cherokee Police officers for conducting a thorough and complete investigation, singling out the efforts of lead Detective Jesse Aiken. 

“The District Attorney’s Office and Cherokee Indian Police must follow the law and evidence as dictated under North Carolina’s stand-your-ground law,” Welch said. “Based on the evidence and witness accounts, we determined Mr. Preuss was legally justified in using deadly force.”

Preuss and his wife cooperated with officers, including SBI agents who arrived to process the crime scene, the district attorney said.

The couple agreed to interviews, provided blood samples and fingerprints, and consented to both personal searches and a search of their car. 

The couple’s blood samples showed no evidence of either alcohol or narcotics. Lambert had a 0.17 blood alcohol content, according to a toxocology report. 

“This tragic event has resulted in the community losing a beloved and well-respected person in Mr. Wilson,” Welch said. “Our sincere condolences go out to his family.”

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