Saying he “wanted to go on an adventure,” Dakota Hill, now charged with first-degree murder, drove with Tyler Gaddis to an historic church near Cherokee and, in a frenzy, stabbed him to death under the bell tower, according to a federal criminal complaint filed last week in U.S. District Court.
A federal grand jury indicted Hill, of Cherokee, in connection with the March 29 death of 25-year-old Gaddis, a Whittier resident. Investigators say they learned the details the next day, after Jonathan Hill walked into the Cherokee Police Department, claiming to have witnessed the crime.
Investigators don’t explain the family connection, if any, between the two men. The Hills were living together, before and after the stabbing, with Dakota Hill’s female partner in Cherokee hotel rooms.
According to the court document, Dakota Hill was angry with Gaddis because the Whittier man had blown Hill’s cover with a different woman.
Hours before he died, Gaddis cautioned the woman about Dakota Hill, according to the criminal complaint, telling her his friend wasn’t using his real name – he was calling himself “Andrew” – and that Dakota Hill’s roommate, Tabatha Renee Brown-Ledford, wasn’t his sister; in fact, she was pregnant with his child. Gaddis warned that Dakota Hill planned to rob her, the woman told investigators.
She’d met Dakota Hill two weeks earlier through a dating site, but when she tried to distance herself, he “hounded her,” she told investigators. There was a confrontation at a Cherokee basketball court, and the woman told Dakota Hill that, thanks to Gaddis, she knew the truth, the complaint states. Dakota Hill “became upset during the conversation” she told investigators, saying, “’Tater’ had him hot.”
Gaddis was nicknamed Tater.
The criminal complaint quotes an unidentified witness as corroborating Jonathan Hill’s statement, based on conversation with Dakota Hill. The witness claims Dakota Hill told him about the stabbing and of how Jonathan Hill lost “his nerve” at the church, breaking down in tears as Gaddis begged him for help.
Dakota Hill is quoted as saying he “could not stop” stabbing Gaddis, “to the point that he lost track of how many times he stabbed him,” according to the complaint. Afterwards, Jonathan Hill helped Dakota Hill pick up Gaddis’ body so they could slam him down and make sure he was dead, the witness reported to investigators.
A medical examiner’s report released in June said Gaddis was stabbed 19 times.
After the two men left the church, Jonathan Hill called 911, misidentifying himself as “Raven York.” He told the dispatcher someone had been stabbed and was bleeding at Lufty Baptist Church. Police arrived to find Gaddis face up and covered in blood.
The men drove in the direction of a car wash, tossing the phone and knife handle out of their vehicle while en route, according to the criminal complaint. Investigators recovered the phone and other evidence.
Lufty Baptist Church, in the Smokemont area of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, closed in 1939, but remains a popular destination for tourists and photographers and serves as an occasional venue for weddings and family reunions.