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Florida man commits suicide in Smokies days before trial in Key West

1-24-2012 North Carolina:

A Key West, Fla., man who steadfastly maintained his innocence on child pornography charges and was set to stand trial there Monday morning killed himself Friday afternoon in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

The body of Charles Dale Lee, 56, was found on the North Carolina side of the National Park shortly before 5 p.m. Friday, said Molly Schroer, public information officer with the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

According to a press release, National Park dispatchers received a report of a person lying beneath the observation deck at Newfound Gap who did not appear to be breathing. Park rangers responded and found Lee's body with a fatal gunshot wound to the head, and a suicide note was also found in the Lee's vehicle, officials said.

Schroer said Lee's next of kin in Florida have been notified.

Lee's attorney, Richard Wunsch of Key West, Fla., said he did not know why his client chose to travel to the park to end his life. Lee was 22 counts of possession of child pornography, and Lee adamantly maintained his innocence, Wunsch said.

"It wasn't a situation where a guy says, 'I did this — minimize my prison time.' He said he was not guilty of these charges and maintained that from the beginning," Wunsch said. "He was a decent guy with no criminal history accused of very serious crimes."

According a story from the July 21, 2009, edition The Citizen newspaper in Key West, Lee had been arrested days earlier and charged with the child porn counts.

Officers alleged that images found on a computer owned by Lee contained photos of naked underage females, some of them engaged in sex acts, according to an arrest warrant. ..Source.. by Lance Coleman

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